I don’t think it’s a bad idea for a writer to have a day job. . . .The thing I’ve learned about creativity is that it can’t always be forced. Some things just take time. . . .Writing is simply not a linear process.
~ Christine Amsden, How I Wrote My First Book
nd yet, that’s just it isn’t it? That some projects take time. And if you have other obligations, and other deadlines, those things will intrude upon your creative time.
I’ll admit, there are times when the fear of a looming deadline kicks my procrastinating bottom into gear and the ideas fly out of my head faster than my fingers can type them out. But if it’s a project that requires a little more thought, or a whole lot of research, then a tight deadline is not my friend. And in my world, deadlines really only become tight because something else popped up that needed to be done, and the project that was due tomorrow is now due in an hour.
And that’s when inspiration decides to take a vacation and I’m left staring at a blank page in full panic mode.
Personalization, Location, Motivation
I think the key to finding your artistic groove is to work with your personality type. For Christine Amsden, having to fit her writing schedule around naps and bedtime (she’s also a stay at home mom) makes the hours she does write more productive. But it would drive me nuts! I know this about myself (even though I don’t have children) because outside interruptions when I’m working on something creative, I lose my rhythm, get frazzled, and then once I’m able to come back to it, the well is dry. Or worse ~ everything I’ve done up to that point on it sounds (or looks) awful.
Another example is my friend Sullivan. He produces some of his best writings while sitting in a noise crowd in a café or diner or even at the mall ~ which you wouldn’t think would be his style because he’s an introvert. But he did grow up in NYC, so crowd noise, the rush of humanity all around him, is like a background symphony. It helps him focus. Me the extrovert (with an introvert’s heart)? I grew up in the country, so peace and quiet and the background music of birds and insects, and the wind in the trees ~ that helps me focus.
© Michael Novelo
As for motivation, well, I’ve told you that fear (more often than I’d like!) motivates me to get projects completed. But some people freeze when they’re given a tight deadline. They’re motivated more by a to do list that they check off: Chapter 1 – done! Yippee! Others are motivated by rewards ~ whether material or otherwise. This has never worked for me either: I can remember my mom trying to get me to clean my room when I was about eight or nine, and promising to pay me or buy me something if I did. I would just shrug and say, “Nah. I don’t need it.” What she never picked up on was that if she had said, “Clean or you can’t read that new book you got at the library” then that room would have been eat off the floor spotless.
Sometimes, however, none of these things work because your brain just isn’t wired to block things out and you have the attention span of a pebble. But pebbles don’t have….oh. Let me tell you, ADD and ADHD are real (although I wish I had more “H” in my brand of it!) and not always fun. I like to think of it as being a different kind of brilliant ~ after all, my brain can grasp so many different ideas, etc, that it couldn’t possibly be bothered to. . .hey! Look at that article! I need to write about that. . .oh. Sorry!
See what I mean?
If I’m having a good day brain-wise, I’ve found that prioritizing my tasks can help keep me on track. But I make sure to tell myself that this list is a reminder and not a strait-jacket. Otherwise, my inner artist goes into tantrum mode at what she perceives as being “confining” and then nothing gets done.
Ahh, the things we tell ourselves.
Since I need to feed myself as well as my imagination, having a day job is necessity. And in the end, I fall somewhere in between: being around people motivates me, but it needs to be in a place with minimal distractions.
If only I were a morning person. . .
Oremus pro invicem,
What motivates you? Does having a day job help or hinder your creativity?