Scheduling Your Creative Time

Are you currently stalled out when it comes to your creativity? If so, I have been there, and this article is for you.

I’ve written in some of my Saturday articles before about having trouble writing my novel, and the troubles have continued even up until a week or two ago. It literally felt like it had come to an immovable standstill; some days I would just open the file that contained it, read over the last few pages of my writing, and just close the file again, not sure what to add or where to go from where I stopped. I felt paralyzed.

That is, I felt paralyzed until I began to put my novel on my to-do list.

Can You Really “Schedule” Creativity?

Well, no, you can’t plan when you’ll have inspiration. But you can carve out part of your busy day to allow yourself to BE creative. When you allow yourself time to be creative, you open the door for inspiration.

Not realizing this was my biggest mistake: I hadn’t scheduled myself any time to be creative. Without a definitive, set time for “noveling,” I was depending on “feeling like” writing, and I didn’t “feel like” writing because I didn’t see that I had time or energy to do it. The underlying problem was stress over ill-managed time.

Overcoming the Time/Motivation Problem

The last straw came when it had been about a month since I had last written in my novel. I knew that because I looked at the “Last Modified” date, and it read January 17th, 2012.

I was astonished at the date. How could it have been that long? How could I have stopped writing for that long? What was wrong with me?

And, just as quickly as I realized it, I got mad at myself. “If I’m intending to be a great novelist, I first have to get off my butt and WRITE the aforementioned novel,” I grumbled to myself.

Using the Sticky Notes desktop gadget, I finally wrote in a definitive goal for the next day: “Write 1,000 words.” That’s all I had to do–write a thousand words. Didn’t matter how far it took me in the story or anything. Just 1,000 more words: progress. 1,000 words is what I’d been doing every day before I had inexplicably dropped the ball; I wanted to hit the ground running.

…And It Worked

The next day, I looked at my to-do list for that day…and suddenly, 1,000 words in my story didn’t seem so unconquerable, especially when compared with the other stuff I had to do (write 2 blog posts, finish writing my Sunday school lesson for the week). Suddenly, I found myself thinking, “Hey, I can write a few hundred words in my novel when I get tired of writing my blog posts or reviewing the lesson.”

And that’s exactly what happened. That day, I finally started writing again, editing and adding new bits in the story in between crafting my blog posts and reviewing/writing my Sunday school lesson. Like a key had been turned in my brain, the creative “engine” had turned over and started up again, all because my novel had been given a place in my writing life again.

So, How Do You Restart Your Creative Engine?

These are the tricks that worked for me. Try them and see how they work for you and your form of creativity, whatever it may be:

  • Make “creative time” part of your to-do list. Making it a priority is the first step. If you never allow time for it, it won’t happen.
  • Write reminders for “creative time” somewhere prominent. For me, that meant putting it on the computer desktop; for you, that might mean writing it on a whiteboard in your office, or leaving a note on your coffeepot. Anywhere where you will see it consistently and be reminded to do it, especially if you’re absent-minded and living in the future like me, will help you.
  • Remind yourself of what you were attempting to do when you last left off. I’ve taken to writing “When last I left my brave hero, [X], [Y], and [Z] happened/was going on” in my to-do list so that it makes me laugh and remember what I was writing about. That way I don’t have to “catch up” on my own book if it takes a week or two before I get back on the horse. (That’s saved me a LOT of time!)

Summary

It may make writing (or any other creativity) a little less glamorous if you “schedule” time to do it, but believe me, trying to force yourself to find time (when you already feel like your day is packed full) is only going to make you feel more stressed and more down on yourself. Making sure you give yourself even 15 or 20 minutes to be creative can jump-start that long-dead project or that abandoned flight of fancy. And believe me, it works and is worth it. 🙂

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