Are you still learning about yourself? I tend to think I know me and then I'm astounded (or confounded) when I discover something new. Actually it's not something new. It's something that has been there all along but I'm just now identifying it. Such was the case recently.
I have a hunch this is not just about me. My hunch is that it probably applies to all creative-type people. But you can let me know if I'm right on that. And if you're educated in this area or have read up on it, you may already know this. To me, it was a revelation.
What I've finally figured out is: I seem to have a limited amount of creativity in me per week. Tweet that here:
Once I've used this week's creativity, it's gone. That's it. That's all there is. No more. Until next week.
It took me a long time to grasp onto what was happening with me. It started when I noticed that every Wednesday seemed to be a "down" day for me. I don't mean down in the dumps; I mean I just couldn't seem to get anything done. I'd go great guns on Monday and Tuesday, accomplish a lot, and then came Wednesday and I couldn't seem to get anything done at all. Thursday would pick back up again and Friday could be a good day of solid work. And if I don't have any obligations for Saturday, I work that day too and so my Friday - Saturday can be as productive as my Monday - Tuesday.
But what about those Wednesdays? What's happening there?
When I first started noticing my "down Wednesdays," I went through what I'm guessing is probably a fairly normal cycle. I scolded myself. I pushed myself. I determined to do better. I promised myself I wouldn't dilly-dally. I swore I wouldn't mess around and waste time. I bribed myself ... I would treat myself if I accomplished a certain list of things on Wednesday. Nothing worked. (Tweet it: )
The next Wednesday would come and same thing: No matter what I told myself or tried to trick myself into, I just couldn't manage to get much done.
I have a new theory.
It's not that I'm being lazy or goofing off. My new theory is that we can only do so much creative work (or possibly other types of work too) before we run out of ... whatever you want to call it. Creativity? Energy? Gumption? Tweet it:
I kept asking the creativity / energy / gumption gods:
May I have another cup of Creativity, please?
The answer was clear:
No. You may not.
You may not have more creativity. Sorry.
So I stopped scolding myself. It's a real thing. I can give myself a break. It's okay! Once I spend my creativity on something, that's it. It's gone. There is no more.
Wait until next week. Then I'll get another dose.
I meet with another writer-friend a couple times a month. Recently when we met at Starbucks I lamented, "I only get so much creativity per week. I can't force myself to conjure up any more. If I spend it all on the blog, I have nothing left." (Tweet that!)
She nodded. She not only understood, she agreed.
So, now that I recognize the reality that I only get so much creativity per week, what can I do with that bit of information? Here are some thoughts:
Take care about where you spend your creativity.I think sometimes we spend our best creative juice on the wrong things. (Tweet that!)
For example, many times we work for other people. Whether it's helping out a friend with a free critique or blog post, or doing social media or other tasks for pay to make ends meet, we're spending our week's worth of creativity. Then when it's time to work on our own project -- that magazine article, book chapter, or screenplay -- we can't seem to get going on it. (Tweet that!)
That's because we've spent our creative energy on somebody else's project. If we spend it all doing work for others, there's nothing left for us.
If this is where you are, this post may be of more help: "When Writing Makes You Feel Tired, Anxious, or Stressed."
Or we may work on our own projects that aren't the most important. I tend to do this when I think I'll do all those "other things" first, clearing the way to spend large amounts of time on my current big, fun priority project. But by the time I finished all those "other things," I've got nothing left.
Another place where I'm good at spending my creative capital is on worthy projects that require my regular attention. For example my Bible prophecy blog. I love blogging on that topic. And in these days we're living in, there's a never-ending supply of topics to write on. Each week I thought I'd quickly write the week's three posts and then move on to my priority writing project. But it hardly ever seemed to work that way. Those three posts would always take longer than I'd want them to. And when I was done, I couldn't get going on my priority project.
So I'd switch it up and work on my priority project first and then at the end of the week I'd be in an anxious panic because I needed blog posts and didn't have any prepared ... and had no energy or time to get some done.
At the first of the year I put that blog on hold. What a relief! I've learned I only have so much creativity in me and when it's gone, it's gone. Although I hated to put my prophecy blog on hold, it has been a time of rest for me since I did. And I've been able to get more writing done on my priority projects.
So, my writer friend, I encourage you to think about this. How are you spending your creativity?
Spend it wisely. It's like an allowance. That's all you get. Once you spend it, you don't get any more until next week. (Tweet that!)
Be creative about what you do with your down days.
So if it's true that we are going to have some days when we can't get anything creative accomplished, or at least very little, what can we do with that?
For me, I'm able to do other tasks that don't require as much creativity. There are so many other things that we must do as professional writers besides writing or brainstorming or creating. We can give our creativity a rest by doing other "business" tasks.
- Catching up on emails.
- "Mindless" tasks, such as cleaning my office or needed filing.
- Reading emailed newsletters and the linked articles that sounded so interesting. These are usually writing-related, so I'm growing and learning as a writer.
- Researching those points I need to know when I go back to writing.
- Creating marketing items that don't take much creative capital but are fun (and needed), such as making a new book trailer at animoto.com or a new marketing image of a book cover at photofunia.com.
- Creating "share squares" to use on social media, such as a great quote from one of my books on a beautiful photo background using canva.com or picmonkey.com.
- Creating a new header for Facebook or Twitter.
- Loading some posts to go live in the future on my Facebook Page or on Hootsuite for Twitter.
- Updating a web site, blog bio, or Amazon author page bio.
- Going to Starbuck's and having a passion iced tea. (Just kidding.)
Anything that is more automatic or business-related rather than having to create, as in putting words on paper / screen, is much easier for me to do on my down days. The creative projects listed above are fun, not hard creative work.
There are so many other things a writer needs to do besides write, the list of non- or less-creative items we can be working on is truly endless.
What would be on your list of things you need to do when you're having a creatively down day? Why not go ahead and make a list? Why not allow yourself to work on these on your down day? Be sure to include some fun things. Our work on down days should not be drudgery or we'll not want to take a day when we really need to.
Get more done on your creative days.
I truly believe I'm getting more done creatively since I've discovered my new theory on a limited amount of creativity each week. And I'm not scolding myself when I'm not able to make progress on a priority project. I give myself a break and know I'll be able to do more the next day.
Does your creative energy ebb and flow?
Which days do you have the most creative energy?
Which hours of the day are your best for creating words on paper / screen?
How can you use this information to boost your creative output (while giving yourself a break)?