Monday, July 30, 2012

Stay Creative Every Day Tip #12: Stay Focused With the Basics

It's been a long journey, but we're finally here at Tip #12: Whenever you feel scattered with too much going on in your life, or you're working on too many projects at once, go back to the basics.

I love staying busy, and I often work on several different pieces of writing or art during any given day. Not only is this a great way to get a lot done, but it keeps me from becoming bored or burnt-out on any one thing. The downside of this, however, is that it can also become overwhelming at times, making me feel I'm going in too many directions without any real sense of purpose. The best way I've found to counter this feeling is to remember how I got to this point in the first place, followed by a session of starting all over again with beginner's mind and simple tools. For example:
  • Read 1 how-to book as if it's the only book in the world. Do the exercises. Take the advice to heart.
  • Morning pages--just 3 handwritten "whatevers" every morning. I find writing on a legal pad with a stiff backing is an excellent way to plow through the noise, dreams, and endless lists of unfinished projects and plans in my mind. It's also a good way to find the answers to what's keeping me scattered and how I can focus in on what's really important to me.
  • Write only by hand. The act of simply holding a pen or pencil, listening to the sound it makes working across the page, and letting the words (or pictures!) flow upon the surface can be very healing, and very real.
  • Try limiting yourself to just 1 medium or aspect of writing for an entire week, e.g., just use charcoal for drawings, or paint with a limited watercolor palette of 3 colors. Write only character biographies for a week, or simply block out your scenes on index cards--and nothing else.
  • Along the same lines, choose just 1 subject for writing, painting, or collage. Sometimes there are too many choices in life. By selecting a single topic, e.g., apples, you can more easily zoom in and get to the heart of the subject. A good way to tackle this would be to find pictures of apples, buy apples, draw them, write poems, use the imagery to trigger a personal essay. You could even add some of your efforts to your current WIP if you think it will fit.
  • De-clutter 1 area of your house or office: a single drawer, shelf, or magazine rack. Keep this up until you feel you've got more breathing space and working room.
  • Go through your TBR pile and pick the one title that seems the most appealing to you right now. Store the rest out of sight in a box or on a specific area of your bookcase. Any books that you've been resisting reading, sell or give them away.
  • Plan a week's worth of meals and go to the grocery store to buy only the ingredients that you need to use.
  • Stay home. Take a break from meetings and other social activities (including online browsing and networking if necessary!). Rest up until you feel re-energized and ready to face the world again.
  • Go to bed early. Read rather than watch TV or movies. If you listen to the radio, try to avoid news programs.
  • Meditate with simple visualization techniques for 5-minute sessions. Doing this 3-4 times a day can give you a much-needed rest with a huge boost in energy and productivity.
  • Evening pages. List what you did accomplish during the day--you might want to write another 3 pages just like you did in the morning, but I find a list of 12 can be equally helpful. Another approach could be to write down 12 things you noticed during your day that made it special.
Tip of the Day: Keep a notebook that is solely for jotting down ideas for future projects, or for those perfect plot points or lines of dialogue that pop into your mind at all the wrong times. Label them clearly as where you think they should go, and then ignore them until you've finished your current project.

So there they are--all twelve tips! To print out the complete list, just go visit Dr. Doris Jeanette at the Live at the Edge interview library. Happy Creating!

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