Why creativity needs structure

If you’re like me (i.e. a master procrastinator, a self-sabotage genius and a time waster extraordinaire), then you’re probably wondering what’s wrong with you, how come you can’t get off your arse and pull your shit together to do things that seem effortless to others (like, I don’t know, write a book, start a blog, record a podcast episode, read a certain book you’ve been meaning to read for ages or any book for that matter, exercise regularly or even irregularly, but move you body in ways that use your muscles more often etc.) at the ripe age of 38? (I am obviously talking about myself here, but feel free to add in your own ’ripe’ age).

Procrastination, self-sabotage and time-wasting are not to be talked of badly or taken lightly, because they take skill and lifelong cultivation. They are such subtle foes that you won’t be blamed (much!) for thinking they are friends. I feel tempted to also add excuse-making to the list but that’s the kind of thing that comes with the aforementioned three in a package.

If you’re also like me, then you’re an obliger. Which means someone who is very good at keeping external commitments, but is rubbish at keeping internal ones. Obligers are people who perform well when they have to answer to someone else. You may be excused from reading this post if are (like my husband) an upholder (someone who does everything they put their mind to with or without external accountability). If you’re one of those, I don’t like you (actually it’s not that I don’t like you, I just wanna be you). Go away! 🙂 And if you’re neither or you’re not really sure what you are (spoiler alert, you might be a rebel or a questioner) find out your tendency by taking Gretchen Rubin’s (also the author of The Happiness Project) quiz here. 

If you’re like me, you are also a creatively frustrated individual who comes up with lots of ideas every day but can’t settle on any idea in particular and ends up not taking action about any of them.

So what’s there to do? 

The only reason I can think of that The Love Project was a successful endeavour on my part, both at personal and creative level (yes, I do consider finishing writing it a success) was because I treated it like a project. Something with a structure, something with a plan and actionable steps that eventually led me to meeting my husband and moving to France. And by employing structure and project management tools, I also discovered things about myself, things I would have never known had I continued to treat my love life with the same disinterest I seemed to treat everything else.

Finding myself in a creative impasse since circa January 2016, when I received a request from one of the literary agents to which I had submitted my first three chapters to read the full manuscript (having received three months later a gentle rejection accompanied by detailed feedback, but a rejection none the less), I have been struggling to stay afloat creatively. Since creativity is synonymous with my sense of self, I have been failing and flailing on several other aspects of my life (fitness, food, self-care and many more etc). I suspect a certain malaise had entered by body and soul and that’s when my old friends (/foes) procrastination, self-sabotage and time-wasting came back into play. I’ve contemplated many a times doing something about those guys but nothing worked. I didn’t have enough will-power. In the absence of some kind of structure that is…

Say hello to my daily checklist!

Ok, so this may not be a whole project plan, but it’s a simple tool that works. I have selected a few activities that I would like to make sure happen every day. Such as:

  • Writing morning pages – the quintessential creative recovery tool
  • Doing my knee exercises (I am in recovery after a bad fall last year)
  • Writing 10 ideas a day (This is something I strongly encourage you to at least read about by clicking on the link. Perhaps I will dedicate an entire blog post after I monitor how writing 10 ideas per day will impact my cognitive function)
  • Reading one short story a day (This is something I’ve failed at so far, not managing more than half a short story per day – digestible/funny/interesting/different short stories recommendations welcome: PM me!)
  • Writing for one hour per day without over thinking (so far, I’ve managed less than an hour a day of writing, but it’s a start and I don’t think too much about which of the many stories that I have started to work on, I just make a decision beforehand and stick to it)

I also have weekly checklists on which I added writing one blog post a week here and one blog post a week on Frenchfully.com (you’ve guessed it, my new blog on living in France, doh!). Other weekly tasks can include yoga class (I hosted my first yoga class at home on Tuesday, more about it on Frenchfully.com soon), going for a walk or whatever else I feel may need including into my weekly schedule.

You may not need structure. You may be an upholder, you may already instinctively know what to do, how much of it and when to do it. But if you’re like me, then this method may help you too. And if so, what would your checklist look like?

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