Here it is, the unofficial end of summer. Labor Day weekend. A time to celebrate the diligent labor that created this country. Do we still have that work ethic? Do we still work hard for the sake of a job well done? One thing is for sure; it is easier to persevere in our work when our work is what we want to do, when our work is not work. Creativity should not be work, right? But of course there are revisions and edits that need to be made, practice routines that must be accomplished, clean up after a project that can’t be ignored. Sometimes, even when we work at what is our passion (or follow our creativity outside of our salaried positions), sometimes even the creativity seems drudge-full. Everyone goes through moments like this. That’s when we need to remember our work ethic. That’s when we need to remember our creative desire. That’s when we need to create fun.
Did you ever babysit? Or are you a mother of a young child? Do you remember making a game out of cleaning up the toys before the parents came home? or before moving on to the next activity? “Who can toss the most stuffed animals into the box?” “Can you drive the train into the station?” “Time to practice parking–the tricycle goes over here!” For our children we make up games to get the drudgery done and re-establish some order to the space. Why not do it for ourselves?
Sometimes the answer is as easy as putting on some music or talking to a friend. Recently I was painting a tiny, tedious white picket fence around a porch in an oil painting. First, I sketched it in with charcoal, giving it my undivided attention. Then, I took a little break and chatted with a friend in the studio. Next, I went back to it with paint and again gave it my undivided attention as I painted in those tiny pickets. But soon, someone else came in and I took a quick break to say hello. Back to the painting–more concentration. Step back, observe, take a drink of coffee. More attention. Ask advice. Back to the pickets–adjusting size and color for the perspective and shadows. Was this a quick way to achieve a small portion of the painting? No. Does that fence look good? Yes. Was I looking forward to painting that fence? No. Am I happy with it and did I feel good when I finished? Yes. So maybe we also need to give ourselves time to slow down when the going gets sludgy–as long as we don’t stop. And try to remember that feeling of “it’s done, and it’s good” we had the last time we ran into a tedious revision.
Today, I think I’ll finally do some editing. I also have “work work” to do answering e-mails and creating courses. But think about it–in creating or updating my courses for next year, I get to read some really great poetry or short stories. In editing, I get to revisit my characters and see how they are doing, make their journeys smoother. What’s not fun about that? And I’m sure there’ll be many cups of coffee, glasses of water, and walks around the garden to motivate me.
How do you make those down moments fun? What do you do to keep a smile when the creation becomes a monster? And can anyone convince me that running scales on the flute is fun?