Being creative as a boring adult

2022-11-27 20:49

Lately I have been grappling with creativity (or a lack thereof, in my life). Why is that? I think a large part of it has to due with the fact that I have this far into my life, incorporated being creative as part of my identity. So, when I don't find myself being as creative as I'd like, I get the E-word knocking on my door.

One of the hard parts of becoming an adult is finding the time to be creative.

To go about it inelegantly (and perhaps fittingly so, because what I'm about to type feels so obvious that I find it strange I had not thought it before) — less free time, especially long stretches of it, means less creativity. At least in my life.

Some people who have been an adult longer than I might be saying uh, yeah, duh. Sure. Obvious. You have less time for your mind to wander, to contemplate ideas. You rinse and repeat - get up, work, find something to cook, go to bed (and in between those things, weave in your responsibilities / dependants).

Well...so?

In some senses, that's it. This post is partially being written to mark my realization (and, yes, a priviliged one, indeed) and the other part is me wondering what can be done about that. 1.

Scheduling Play

Often, I find myself thinking about the artists I admire, especially the ones who do their thing full time. Of course, doing it full time means you have the capacity to put out a large body of work, But more importantly than that, I think about how their minds are free to roam for so many waking hours a day.

For myself, I've had to steal time from the day to get little bits of creative things done. I have a small sketchbook which I use to draw in when I need a break from the screen. My bigger sketchbook is not too far away. 10 minute break to play guitar and practice a new song. Get up early before work so that I can squeeze in some life drawing. And while all this falls within the permissiveness of how I do work, it is basically desperate context switching.

I've got a part in me that I call the scheduler who does the very adult job of blocking out chunks of time so I can play 2.

But here's the thing. It's not exactly play. This is where the boring adult part comes in. I'm not going to entirely blame the lack of extended blocks of free time for my inability to play creatively. For me, becoming an adult has meant accumulating experiences that help me navigate my boat on the waters of life. Unfortunately, when it comes to having dreams that I'd like to accomplish or experience, taking my boat ashore to investigate them, much less pursue them, is often an effort in embarrasment and ennui, for a lack of better words 3.

I think a large part of that has to do with shame. I feel sad how we can carry so much shame about the things we want to do with our lives; with how we express ourselves. Sometimes all it takes is a scoff from a stranger after you've leaked an aspiration, no matter the size, into the air of a colloquial conversation, for a person to bury that hope 4.

What next?

I'm not sure what's next on this thought train. Writing it out has certainly helped me articulate the ideas that have been swimming around in my head 5. For now, I'll explore one notion; I've heard people express a few different approaches, when it comes to the topic of unabashedly creating / doing what you want to do.

Approach with agression

I don't give a shit what anyone thinks.

I've heard this kind of thinking, expressed out loud 6. Expressed with anger or agression. To me, it is a retaliation of our spirit against whatever history of rejection, quashing of autonomy, or what have you, haunts us and stops us from being creative. We use anger as a propeller to push past our doubts and our meandering so that we can get on with what we want to create or realize.

Some say spite is a good motivator. Others say the best revenge is living well.

Approach with kindness

I don't think dreams and aspirations come from a place of anger. So, I don't want to express them using anger as the thrust that gets me to overcome fear.

I think it's possible to approach with kindness. That means with gentleness, understanding and some curiousity about ourselves and what we want to be creative with.

When I look at other people who seem unabashedly creative, I often wonder how they do it. They must have been brought up in a way that just makes them more confident than me. Maybe they have more of a formal training than I do. They probably have had more interaction with like-minded people and maybe that puts the wind under their wings.

Yes, we're all different. And many people come from difficult places that make being creative hard to do. If creativity is partially linked to the free time that allows our mind to wander 7 (and perhaps, to have the permission and space to play), than there are always going to be people who seem ahead in that regard.

At minimum, I think we need to be own ally in our efforts to express ourselves creatively. Accepting the story that has gotten you to where you are seems to hold more light. With light, there is an optimism and the ability to see farther ahead.


Footnotes

1

I'm not going to wax on about the history of free time in the timeline of humxn history. Don't worry.

2

Perhaps strangely, but even the use of the word play makes me cringe for some reason! It seems infantile and unbecoming of my adult self. Oh god, they've already got me haven't they?

3

Egad, This is starting to sound like I'm writing a high-school essay on a poorly written coming of age story.

4

This is partially why I've lately been interested in reframing the idea of rejection and confidence. I hope I can learn more about how our minds can cognitively reapproach rejection / shame in the months and years to come.

5

Sometimes I wish I didn't think so much, and just did.

6

And on catchy censored book titles.

7

Hello to the PHD candidate writing on creativity that would like to prove me wrong? Why yes, that is a chip that just fell off my shoulder.