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Why I Should Take My Own Advice

Amanda Truscott hiking in the mountains near Delvinë, Albania.

Falling off the wagon of workaholism

A couple weeks ago, while Kevin and I sat with our laptops at a sun-soaked restaurant table, he noticed me grimacing like I was under thumbscrews.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

I told him MailChimp (the program I use to email blog subscribers) was making me want to scoop my eyes out with a spoon.

“What would happen if you didn’t get the signup form implemented this week?”

“Then no one who visits my blog will ever come back to it, and no one will read what I write, and there’ll be no point to any of this!” I wailed, realising immediately how ridiculous I sounded.

Aside from the fact that I was allowing the mean voices in my head to tell me lies again (they do that when I’m not vigilant), I was also forgetting some of the most important truths I’ve quoted from books and people on this very blog over the last month.

Practising the tools for staying inspired

To the extent I’ve implemented what I’ve learned, I’ve felt almost as if I’ve tapped into an enormous electrical current, and all I have to do is touch it to find ideas zapping through my fingertips.

I’ve felt excited, alive and passionate. I’ve filled literally hundreds of pages in multiple notebooks.

The kind of week it's been: 159 notebook pages written and uploaded to Evernote.

A few of the 159 notebook pages I filled in one week.

To the extent that I haven’t implemented what I’ve learned, I’ve basically gone off the deep end.

“I’ve never seen you like this,” Kevin said later that night as I stuffed my face with fried dumplings dipped in honey (just one of the near-daily gifts of food from our culinary genius of a landlord).

“It’ll pass,” I said between mouthfuls.

It’s a good thing I’ve decided to force myself to take weekends; otherwise I’d lose all sense of perspective, as I did when I lived in Vancouver, where, instead of ideas, I got stomachaches.

It’s important to pull the arrow back, as Maharishi Mahesh Yogi put it. To take aim. To reflect. That way, we can actually hit the target, instead of exhausting ourselves firing indiscriminately.

That’s just one of the things I’ve learned so far from this blog, and it’s only been live for a month. I can only guess what I’ll have learned after a year.

Why I lapsed

My little spaz, I realised, happened for a couple reasons:

    1. Forgetting my real purpose (to, as my sister said, do what I love in the service of others), I’d gotten all wrapped up in a bunch of “Content Marketing” nonsense, thinking I’d better start learning how to make money from this whole blogging thing right now, or I’ll probably die a very early, very lonely death of starvation, and no one will even come to my funeral (I don’t actually think that, but I’ve found it’s possible to believe preposterous things on an emotional level, even while knowing they’re preposterous).
    2. Having forgotten that achieving my real purpose would require me to remain sound in both body and mind, I relapsed into workaholism and barnacled to my computer.

I only managed to twist my head back on because, having seen firsthand the value of Incubation, I followed through on my commitment to take the weekend off. Behind Kevin on the scooter again, this time headed to the ruins at Butrint, I realised I needed to do better at taking my own advice and the advice of my interviewees.

So, let’s have a little recap, shall we? And perhaps we’ll have one after each month, just to make sure I, at least, absorb everything I’m telling you.

The Top 5 Things I’ve Learned About Creativity This Month:

  1. As Celeste Lovick put it, “The point of doing creative work, the highest point is to do that which you love, in service of others. This is where the true joy and bliss comes from.
  2. Rest. For the love of all that is holy, if you want to be creative, you MUST make time for rest. Graham Wallas said it, and so did Dave Sturt. Rest doesn’t just ensure you’ll have the energy to create; it lets your subconscious make connections your conscious mind never could, lending your work depth, originality, and resonance.
  3. If you want to touch people, tell the truth. It’s as true for comedy as it is for music.
  4. Don’t fear mistakes. It’ll prevent creative flow, and anyhow, as Lucie Guest put it, “Mistakes are often gold!”
  5. You don’t have to know what you’re doing before you start. Ron Drotos said it, and it also ties into what I wrote about Intimation: even a tiny inkling of what you might want to create is enough to throw inspiration’s door open; all it takes is getting down to work. Whether we’re learning how to play a song or how to write a book, it’s as Theodore Roethke wrote in my favourite poem, “The Waking“: we learn by going where we have to go.
Mountain hike.

Mountain hike in Delvinë.

Since my epiphany on the road to Butrint, I’ve continually reminded myself of every principle I’ve just listed. As with any practice, it’s been a process of falling down and getting up, but slowly, I’m getting it.

I was tired yesterday, so instead of tackling my to-do list, I did what I wanted (see lesson 2 above).

Intimation revisited

This morning, Intimation was my reward. Intimation is a subtle thing; it’s tricky to wrap your head around it, and even trickier to notice it, but once you get the hang of it, your creative productivity will skyrocket.

I almost missed it this morning.

Each day, after I meditate and eat breakfast, I free-write for an hour whether I feel like it or not.

Today, I almost skipped it (I have to publish my post, my inner excuse-maker said), but then I got a little twinge. It was like a pebble in your shoe that’s so small you’re not even sure it’s worth the effort of untying your shoelaces to shake it out, but I thought, Alright. I’ll just do 30 minutes. I didn’t even think I had anything to write about.

An hour and a half later, I’d written more than a complete chapter for one of the three books I’m working on.

That’s what happens when you follow the stages of the creative process.

What about you? What have you learned recently about creativity? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

PS: I’m pausing my posts for the next week to implement site improvements. My next post will be on Nov. 16th, when you’ll hear from the amazing dancer/choreographer Julianne Chapple about how to turn self-consciousness into a superpower.

Featured Image: Photo by Kevin Urbanski

In the next couple of months, I’ll publish a book that’ll clarify and expand on each step in the creative process. It’ll have a ton of practical examples and exercises to help you get the hang of it. Subscribe for free, and when the book is done, I’ll send you the first chapter.

5 Comments

  1. Claire says

    Yes to triumphing over the nasty voices, stories and negative ingrained patterns! Both have caused me so much pain over the years. In letting go of the negative stories and accepting the truth about my abilities I find freedom and love.

    I’ve learned my creativity only emerges with love and kindness. If I can be at least half way kind to myself the inspiration pours out.

  2. Thanks for reminding me that rest, mistakes and uncertainty are all part of the creative process… I learned what keeps me going in my work is probably the support from friends and loved ones… It took months for me to share my blog with people but now that I have done this small baby step, things are much easier because my work can ‘serve’ others like you said. Same goes for music. It took a young 10 year old telling me she liked my work for me to be inspired to write…

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