6 Tips to Control Your Creativity from Taking Over Your Life

“Order and creativity are complementary.”—Lewis Mumford

Image courtesy of ponsulak at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of ponsulak at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Hello. My name is Zoe. I’m a creativity junky. If you’re like me, your creative musings and your compulsive desire to create threaten your sleep, your family and spiritual living, your house cleaning, and your other responsibilities.

Know that once a creativity junky, always a creativity junky. But try theses 6 tips that have helped me know when to free my imagination to fly and when to rein it in.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

1. Treat your writing, painting, and presentation preparations like an outside-the-home job. Since I retired, I’m a full-time writer. On weekdays, I rise at 5 AM and start my day in Bible study and intercessory prayer, which prepares me for a good day. Around 9 AM after breakfast with my husband and some cleanup, I climb the steps to my office. I take care of non-creative tasks, then unleash my creativity to work on stories, blogs, and ministries. Ahhh.

My writing day formally ends at 6 PM. But remember, I’m a creativity junky, so I need more help than a defined time to create.

Pad of Paper & Pen2. Carry with you something to write on at all times. Creative ideas pop into my head while I’m praying, eating, working around the house, and even while I’m dreaming. Of course, I want to pursue the idea NOW. I can often control that urge by writing the idea down on my notebook or iPad. In effect, it’s scheduled, and I can relax.

I’d recommend having only a desktop computer so it isn’t convenient to whip out your MacBook Air and pursue a fascinating idea. But that’s too extreme. After all, some of the impulsive behavior is the nature of an artistic, right?

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

3. Avoid activities at bedtime that tempt your creativity. I’m learning it’s dangerous to work on a scene or blog sitting in bed. When the lights go out, I know I’ll rework the content in my mind for hours. So to protect my sleep and keep the ideas from streaming, I read a little of a book that’s interesting but not a page-turner. Or I play a boring solitaire game on my iPad.

Watering flowers4. Plan moments throughout your day to re-ground you in non-creative living. For me, God is my guide, my counselor, and my Lord. Sometimes, I get wrapped up in my creative work and forget that. So I schedule another few moments with the Lord in a devotional after lunch.

Ahead of time, I plan home tasks, preferably with exercise, to be accomplished when I take breaks.

Canoeing5. Train a habit of keeping certain days for spending time with family and doing things other than creative work. This tip is the most difficult for me. First, it’s hard to shut down the creative frenzy for long periods. And second, when life responsibilities take away an afternoon or day from my creative workweek, I need to make up the time. However, I’m working on the habit of taking off Wednesday afternoons and weekends. BUT, if my husband watches sports on TV, out comes my MacBook Air.

pond6. Do creative activities with others. My husband and I have worked together to design a house, create a garden pond, and plan creative activities for Sunday school children. My creative nature loves and feeds on such times with my husband. And, I enjoy playing make-believe with my grandchildren.

 

What has worked for you to prevent your creative work from taking over your life?

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2 Tips to Pump Up Flat Characters in Your Story

“Men are not moved by things, but the views they take of them.” —Epitectus

We storytellers want our characters to be interesting, plausible, and memorable. But often our characters come across as one-dimensional.

But with a little work, we can do two things that will inflate our flat characters.

sunset.jpgTo make your plot work, let’s say, three-quarters of the way into your story, your hero needs to remove an engine from an RV and restore a 1970 Chevelle. So right before this event you write: He’d spent many of his teen years working on cars and dreaming of restoring a 1970 Chevelle, so he set to work removing the engine from the old RV’s chassis.

Tips to round out your character. 

1. Layer his dreams and expertizes throughout your story so they don’t seem contrived when the plot suddenly needs them. However, don’t overdo this and slow the story down with many prior events. Your hero might admire a shiny Chevelle early in the story and recall when he worked on cars in high school. Later, a Chevelle in a junkyard might catch his eye. This layering will make your character’s dreams and expertizes more plausible.

2. Understand his passions and the value he sees in things that mean nothing to you. It’s difficult to write an interesting, memorable character if you can’t put your opinions aside and understand what he considers valuable and why. Try interviewing him.

The example below shows what you might need to know to understand your hero’s dreams, expertizes, and values. You wouldn’t employ all the details in your story. You’d simply understand him.

winnie.jpgExample:

In 2007, John and I bought a 1983 Winnebago RV, dubbed it Winnie, and parked it on our land before we built our house. Our youngest son popped the hood, and his eyes lit up. He said the 454 engine was the biggest and one of the rarer engines. His dream 1970 Chevelle was the first model year to have such an engine as an option.

I hadn’t thought about the engine, other than it worked. I cared more about the bed, sinks, and shower. Over the next four years, our son occasionally asked how Winnie’s engine was doing. “Still running,” we’d say.

After we built our house in 2011, our son advised us not to give Winnie away. He said the engine and transmission were valuable. So we put Winnie up for sale on a nearby RV lot.

After a year, it hadn’t sold. We mentioned to our son, we’d be glad if the owner of the RV lot junked Winnie to rid her from our responsibility.

Later, we received a call from our son. He said if we planned to junk Winnie, he’d like to have the engine and transmission. With our happy consent, he:

  • old-chevelle.jpgcalled around until he found a nearby scrape metal place that would take Winnie,
  • purchased a 1970 Chevy Chevelle to put the engine in,
  • ordered original 1970 parts for the Chevelle on eBay,
  • traveled four hours to our house with his family,
  • drove Winnie from the RV lot to the salvage yard, and
  • made the four-hour trip again in his truck the next weekend to get the engine and transmission.

the-engine.jpgWhile I write this, he’s at the salvage yard in 26-degree weather, removing his treasure from Winnie.

My son saw value in something we were ready to trash. He pictured more than an old engine and transmission. He envisioned a rusty Chevelle restored to its original beauty. He grasped the opportunity to make his dream come true. And he enjoyed honoring Winnie’s retirement. I received a deeper understanding of my son’s passion with cars.

What have you done or could do to understand your story character better?

 

4 Ways to Free Yourself from Procrastination in Your Creative Endeavors

“Procrastination is opportunity’s natural assassin.” –Victor Kiam

id-100142241.jpg

We don’t plan to procrastinate. We want to fulfill our obligations and move forward. But too often we don’t.

Let’s face it. Procrastination is a weird kind of selfishness, because it robs others and us of benefits and joy.

Fear is often the root of procrastination. What are we so afraid of?

  • Fear the work isn’t the right thing to do
  • Fear the work will be overwhelming
  • Fear we don’t know how to do the work right
  • Fear we’ll abandon the work

If these fears muck up our minds, we need to do something about what we allow in our thoughts. 

4 Ways to Free Yourself from Procrastination

mp900398793.jpg1. Prevention. Take a half hour and list:

  • what you like to do,
  • what you’re good at,
  • what you believe in,
  • what challenges you in a good way, and
  • what you’re called to do.

For help, see 4 Choices That Improve Your Perseverance. Let’s call this list your Character Manifesto. Be honest.

Remember, work ends up on our plates because we say yes to someone’s request or our eyes light up at some work that looks interesting, noble, or lucrative. So, stop before committing to anything and ask yourself: Does my Character Manifesto support this job? If it doesn’t, it’s likely not the right thing to do. So, say no thank you, or think and pray about it before committing.

You’re less likely to procrastinate on work associated with items on your Character Manifesto.

id-10055355.jpg2. Planning. Once you’ve committed to a wise number of right projects, you can prevent them from looming. Even if you dislike planning, you can jot down what projects are due in the next few months. And under each project, what tasks need to be accomplished. Then decide what tasks you need to get done next week.

I can’t stress this enough: assign a sufficient block of time for each task. You already know your most likely interruptions, so wisely plan that block of time around them. Then forget about all tasks except the one assigned for the current block of time.

You know all tasks have been assigned a block of your time, so you can relax and actually look forward to and enjoy your next task.

mp900442329.jpg3. Permission. Now that you’ve assigned sufficient time on your schedule for the right jobs, you need to address niggling thoughts you may fail at doing them right.

Train your thinking. Give yourself permission to ask for help when needed. That’s so smart. To view the task as an adventure. That’s so fun. To realize failure can be a great learning experience for the next attempt. That’s so freeing.

Who better to do the task than you: it fits your Character Manifesto, you’ll get needed help, and you’ll look forward to hindsight if your adventure turns out different than planned.

mp900401598.jpg4. Accountability. You’ve scheduled the right jobs and have given yourself permission to enjoy the work and accept the outcomes. Yet, you fear disappointing people if you get bogged down in other things and fail to finish projects.

Turn your fear into constructive action. Create or join an accountability group that has no investments in your projects.

Your accountability partners have little concern about the success of your projects. They expect you to complete what you determined were the right things to do. Your weekly reports to your group should show them you planned well and worked as planned.

Members can help you look at your pressures and problems more objectively and make suggestions to get you back on track. Plus, they’ll cheer you on.

Having accountability partners helps you to plan well and do what you planned to do.

What works for you to give procrastination the boot?