2 Seldom Recognized Habits That Rob From Your Creative Work

“Compared with what we ought to be, we are but half-awake.”  —William James

file4781300045861.jpgIf we realized we had these habits we wouldn’t allow them to rob our creative work. But they’re so subtle most of us are unaware we partake in them to some degree.

You’ve determined your creative work is what you’re supposed to be doing. For me, that was seeking God’s will and following His lead over many years of growth.

Now, be careful not to let these 2 habits rob from your creative work.

1.  Do you have the habit of being true to yourself, when it’s a false self you’re being true to?

file0001638098991.jpgThe world says push the limits on morality and good taste. It challenges us to shock people into noticing us. It whispers in our ears, “Life is all about you and getting ahead.” The questions below may help detect whether the subtle whispers have drawn you away from important work waiting within your true self.

  • Do you let the  values or methods of creative friends in your field influence your work so they’ll accept you?
  • Do you want to do something noble in your work, but you think you’ll be ridiculed for being outdated?
  • Are you a plotter, but you believe most people think it’s better to be a free-spirited, seat-of-the-pants artist? Or vice versa?

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  • Are you robbing excellence from your creative work by emulating the wrong people?
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2.  Do you have the habit of thinking society needs you elsewhere?

This could be misplaced duty. The good, but not the best, use of your time.

A robbing activity is NOT an obvious procrastination activity. Or one necessary to take care of family. This is an activity you’re subtly lured into performing.

  • id-100205587.jpgIt’s an activity you’re good at. You’d pick you to do it every time, even if it keeps another person from doing it and growing.
  • It’s an activity that seems so right you’ve never bothered weighing the cost of what it’s doing to your creative work.

The following questions may help. For me, they may arise while talking to God to discern if He’s nudging me to perform the activity outside my creative work.

Ask:

  • Does the activity need to be performed at all?
  • Are you the best person to perform the activity?
  • Are you the only person who can perform the activity?
  • Are you an obstacle for the person meant to perform the activity?
  • Is it right to perform the activity, but you’re spending more time on it than necessary?
  • Is this activity worth relegating your creative work to hobby status?

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  • Are subtle, misguided attractions reeling you into activities that rob progress on your creative work?
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What other robbers steal from your creative work?

How to Salvage Your Sagging Creative Work with Spontaneous Absurdity

“All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous, unpremeditated act without benefit of experience.”

 —Henry Miller

file4391309901763.jpgSometimes a project droops like one of Dali’s clocks. Can you salvage the painting, the scene, or the children’s activity?

When your creative work slumps, do something spontaneously absurd to it.

No. Don’t throw or destroy your work. Ask, “With my creativity still intact, but my internal editor turned off, what would I like to do right now to this work?” Then do it.

You may be surprised that your work improves three-fold.

See what I mean in these fictitious examples of Spontaneous Absurdity.

Example 1

id-1004940.jpgThe work: Wade paints a jade-green rubber tree houseplant. He’s eager to add the pièce de résistance: the new yellow shoot.

Sinking Realization: Wade paints the yellow budding leaf and steps back. Humpf. It’s still a rubber tree houseplant. Even he can resist this pièce.

Spontaneous Absurdity: How about a plant from another planet? While the paint is wet, Wade recreates the shoot into a corkscrew that ends in a burst of fuchsia.

§§§

Example 2

Ending of Jeanne’s Novel:

Arthur took Megan into his arms, lowered his head, and kissed her. Her heart pounded. She’d spend her life with this handsome man.

Jeanne’s Critique Partner’s Note: Something’s missing. Actually, a lot.

Spontaneous Absurdity: Okay. How about this for something!

id-10075211.jpgArthur led Meghan through the downpour into the summerhouse. He drew her to him and cupped her head, a drop of water threatening to fall from the curl hanging over his forehead.

Goosebumps prickled Meghan’s arms. Would he finally kiss her?

As he lowered his lips toward hers, she placed her fingertips to his pursed lips. “I’ve called you Arthur from the beginning. The name is so formal, don’t you think? Now that you seem about to press your lips to mine, may I call you Art?”

He grinned and rubbed his nose against hers. “Only if I may call you Meg.” The drop fell from his curl and ran down her cheek like a tear. “Don’t cry, Meghan. I won’t call you Meg.”

She fluttered her lashes. “You see, Meg is the name of our neighbor’s pet skunk. But you may shorten my name to Han.”

He brushed her lips with his, sending tingles up her neck.

“Okay. Then you may shorten Arthur to Hur. I like that better than Art.”

She giggled. “How delightful. Hur and Han. What an interesting beginning to our relationship, Hur.”

“No, lovely Han. This is an interesting beginning to our relationship.” He sank his lips onto hers.

§§§ 

Example 3

file000608292008.jpgAngela’s Preschool Activity: “Cut lips like this example and paste them to your Valentine for a kiss.”

Preschoolers: “Mommy says I’m left-handed. I can’t use these scissors.” “I need help. I can’t cut around the bumps.” “I have only one lip. Sniff. By accident.”

Spontaneous Absurdity: Angela extracts her Red Rumba lipstick from her purse and a tissue. She zips from child to child, smoothing on lipstick to their puckered lips, and then wipes the lipstick clean for the next child. “Kiss your valentine as many times as you wish.”

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  • Spontaneous absurdity can salvage your ailing creative work.
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What bit of spontaneous absurdity improved your creative work?

Will the Opening Line of Your Non-fiction, Fiction, or Presentation Grab Your Audience?

“The beginning is the most important part of the work.” —Plato

by Melodi2
by Melodi2

Why should I care about what you have to say? Sounds rude, doesn’t it? But that’s what many people in your audience think when they approach your work.

So, how much time do you spend on the opening of your speech, sermon, non-fiction book, children’s book, play, activity, novel, song, blog, or magazine article?

Study these first lines quoted from various types of writing. Notice how they set the tone, attitude, purpose, or genre of the work.

  Non-Fiction

  • by Andalusia
    by Andalusia

    “The water was so hot, it was almost burning my face—but I could barely feel it.” —Dave Ramsey’s Complete Guide to Money by Dave Ramsey

  • “The Kings Gambit, the darling of the romantics, is a swashbuckling opening synonymous with attack, sacrifice, and an exciting open game.” —Modern Chess Openings by Walter Korn

Speeches

  • “Presumption is one grand snare of the devil, in which many of the children of men are taken.” —Sermons of John Wesley – Sermon 86: “A Call to Backsliders”
  • “My fellow Americans, I come before you tonight as a candidate for the vice presidency and as a man whose honesty and integrity has been questioned.”  — United States Senator, Richard Nixon’s “Checkers” speech

Picture Books

  • “The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind and another his mother called him ‘WILD THING!’ and Max said ‘I’LL EAT YOU UP!’ so he was sent to bed without eating anything.” (3 pages before a period) —Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  • Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
    Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

    “Chimps don’t wear glasses and zebras don’t cook and you won’t see a kangaroo reading a book.” (3 pages before a period)  —Chimps Don’t Wear Glasses by Laura Numeroff and illustrated by Joe Mathieu

 

Children’s Books

  • “There was nothing Otis Spofford liked better than stirring up a little excitement.” —Otis Spofford by Beverly Cleary
  • “A wild, ringing neigh shrilled up from the hold of the Spanish galleon.” —Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry

Young Adult Fiction

  • “There is no lake at Camp Green Lake.” Holes by Louis Sachar
  • “One year ago my mom got traded in for a newer model.” So Not Happening by Jenny B. Jones

Novels

  • “She didn’t know how far she’d driven—all she knew was that it wasn’t far enough.” Abomination by Colleen Coble
  • “He always said if I left he would kill me, but there are far worse fates than death.” Wings of Glass by Gina Holmes

Short Stories 

  • Image courtesy of Pong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
    Image courtesy of Pong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

    “With the many interruptions to her already loaded schedule, when would she find the time to kill Rita?” —“Plotting Murder” by Zoe M. McCarthy

  • “A steady ticking awakened Murdoch.” —“The Ticker” by Dori Renner in Writer’s Digest, July/August 2013

Articles

  • “One day, a funny thing happened: An unknown, frustrated writer named Joe Hill got an envelope in the mail.” —“The Once and Future King” by Zachary Petit in Writer’s Digest, July/August 2013
  • “Here’s an oxymoron for you: Cancer = Renewal.” —“An Unexpected Gift” by Nina Fuller in WHOA Magazine for Women, Spring 2012

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  • Study the first lines of these writings and learn how to hook your audience.
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Which, if any, of these first lines made you want to read or hear the work? Why?