I have found the best way to crank up my creativity is to keep writing. I find that, when I take a break from writing, my creativity decreases. I need the daily routine of putting my ideas on paper to keep the ideas flowing. The more I write, the more ideas I seem to have. That seems counter intuitive, but I find that it is true.
Usually, I write in the evening after my son has finished his tasks for his online school, after I have worked on my dissertation, and after my chores are done. Throughout the day, my mind will simmer as it prepares itself for the writing ahead. By the time, I sit down to write I find that the plot point I was worrying over usually works itself out or an idea will come for my blog or a journal entry.
LIke exercise, the regular routine of writing keeps my brain agile.
Sometimes, when I sit down to write, my brain freezes. My ideas are frigid, locked behind a wall of icy fear. What if I’m not good enough? What if the final product doesn’t match the image in my head? On these days, my writing stutters across the page, like feet trudging through the slush. I can’t get a foothold on the story I am trying to write. I slip as I chase my elusive character. She won’t tell me who she really wants to be.
Other times, the ideas race from my brain into my pencil, like a river rushing after the Spring thaw. Everything is so clear. I race ahead of my character, my hand barely able to keep up with the words tumbling from my brain.
I hate the word, “triggered.” It seems that everyone, whether they have suffered trauma or not, has something that triggers them. As much as I hate the word, it is the only word I can use to describe my reaction to Feast: True Love in and out of the Kitchen by Hannah Howard. Feast is Howard’s memoir about her undergraduate years and her battle with body image and eating disorders. As she described her feelings of inadequacy and shame about her body, I couldn’t help but think about my own life-long struggles with these same issues.
My stomach churning, I went to bed and almost cried. I thought of all the decisions in my life. The times I thought I should have turned left, but instead turned right. Then, I heard my son, Hunter, laugh. He and my husband like to stay up late, so I was in bed before they were. Hearing him laugh shook me out of my misery. I realized that all my decisions have lead me to this place, with my son and my husband. My life isn’t perfect and my career didn’t turn out as I thought it would, but I can still be proud of everything I accomplished.
I wanted to quit reading Feast, but I made myself finish it. By the end of the memoir, Howard learned to deal with her issues and to become a powerful advocate. I felt, if she could do it, as young as she is, I could do it, too, with all the experiences of my 52 years behind me. That is what I am trying to do. Always moving forward, never backward, like a shark, carving through the water of my present and my future.
I have been reading this series by Lillianna Blake called Single Wide Female. In the series, the main character, Samantha, has a bucket list of things she promised herself she would do when she lost weight. After losing 80 pounds, she finally decides that she is tired of waiting to explore the items on her bucket list. She is still working on weight loss, but she is tired of putting her life on hold until she is thin enough to live it.
I found this series at the right moment in my life. Something just clicked for me in my 52nd year. I finally felt ready to lose the weight that has plagued me my adult life. I started exercising a couple of weeks ago. I ignored all the little nagging doubts (and the pain in my hip) and just started. I lost five pounds. It doesn’t seem like a lot but that is the first weight I have lost in over a year. Last week, I joined Weight Watchers for the umpteenth time. This time around, I was ready for the structure. I don’t view my diet as a limitation any more but as a stepping stone to a healthier life. I have now lost seven pounds.
Another dream I have always yearned for is to become a writer. Like my weight loss, I started slow. I started writing in my journal. I found a book that would help me tackle the idea I have been thinking about. I started to write more regularly, maybe not every day, but enough to keep the flow of my writing going.
While I don’t have a bucket list that compels me to skydive or walk across hot coals, I am feeling like I want to move out of my comfort zone. I want to see what is out there for me.
I have never thought of myself as a radiant person. I am more like a hide-my-light-under-a-bushel-basket person. As I grow older, however, I feel less inclined to hide behind the expectations of others. At 52, I want to be who I am with no apologies and no hiding. I am tired of apologizing for who I am.
This is the year I am going to make my life reflect who I am on my terms. My 52nd year will be the year that I make the changes I want to make. I have stopped the self-recriminations: why didn’t I do this at 32? or 42? The important thing is that I am doing it now. I am going to come out from under the bushel basket and be radiant.
I have many resolutions for 2018. I want to lose weight, exercise more, and organize my house. While these resolutions are important, my main focus for 2018 is to write every day. I have an idea for a novel, but I will never write it unless I actually sit down to write. I also want to begin blogging more regularly.
Rather than starting with a huge goal, like writing the novel or gaining 1000 followers, I am going to start with one small goal. Write every day. I just read a blog by K.M. Allen that reminded me that I don’t need to accomplish everything at once. Just like I don’t expect to lose all my weight in a month, I need to remember that writing a novel or building a blog takes time. I need to take it one step at a time.
Step 1: Carve out time to write. I need to set time aside every day to write. Rather than just think about finding some time to write, I need to schedule it just like I would any other commitment.
Step 2: Free myself from constraints. Sometimes, I try to give structure to my writing by following a self-help book about writing. This limits me. I need to just let go and write.
Step 3: Write for at least 30 minutes a day. I can easily find 30 minutes a day. While writing for an hour or longer might seem daunting, writing for 30 minutes seems more reasonable.
Step 4: Celebrate my success. Remember to take time to acknowledge myself when I follow my commitment and to remember the times I have been successful during the times when I am struggling.
One habit I have tried to cultivate this summer is to write down three to five things I feel grateful for every day. It is the first thing I do every morning, as I plan my day. Some days, it feels like it is hard to find things to be grateful for. I find myself facing a huge shift in my life. After losing my teaching job of fifteen years, I have to decide what to do with myself. I have been unable to find another teaching job, so I must decide where to go from here. I find myself looking back at the arc of my life–all the glaring errors I made. The times I turned left when I should have turned right. But I can’t dwell on those choices. I have new choices to make, so I focus on those things that I am grateful for:
I have a wonderful son and husband.
I have a home with food to eat.
I have my education that provides me with opportunities.
My son, Hunter, will do just about anything for a lollipop–sit still for a haircut, endure a shot, patiently wait in line at the bank. His face lights up when an adult offers him his choice of Dum-Dums. He loves to look for his favorite flavor, mango. No matter how long the day has been he sits back in the car contented sucking on his lollipop.
When he was three, he fell and cut his eye open. After his stitches, his pain magically disappeared when the nurse presented him with a lollipop. No matter how grumpy he is or how sad, the magical lollipop cures all.
Even, now, as he prepares to enter middle school, the lollipop is still his favorite snack. The other day I was sitting on the couch. I was a little sad, because I had just found out I hadn’t received interviews for a couple of jobs I had applied to. Coming out of the kitchen, he said, “Here, Mom, it looks like you could use a lollipop.”
As I sucked on one of his precious Dum-Dums that he had decided to share with me, I realized that maybe a lollipop can cure all.
I let myself fall out of the loop. The last two weeks of school started. I was focused on writing and letting my teaching go by the wayside. I thought to myself, Let my library go. The new teacher can clean it up. So what if my grades aren’t done?
But then, I talked to my colleague, Maxine. She reminded me of the work I had done at Mrachek. She called me the cornerstone of the literacy department. I’ve never been a cornerstone before. She told me to “finish well.” So, for a time, I put aside my writing to focus on my teaching. I cleaned my library, so it would be ready for the new teacher and the students I would never meet. I pushed my students to finish their projects and finished my grades. I said good-bye on the last day with my head held high. I took some time to mourn.
Now I am ready to get back in the loop. I can wrap my teaching hat in tissue and put it on the shelf. Now is the time to begin again–to show myself that I am a writer.
I have a morning journal that I write in. It’s called the Sunrise Manifesto. It’s a guided journal that also serves as a simple daily planner. One of the prompts makes me think of how I can make my day better. I like that idea. Rather than beating myself up for what I didn’t do yesterday, I think about what I could have done better and what I will do today to improve. It reminds me that I can always do better. Each day is a fresh start. With this mind set, I have started to move ahead on more of my goals. I have started to make writing a part of my daily life (with this blog). I have started to tackle the clutter in my house (cleaned my desk–baby steps). I have started eating more healthily (cutting out the junk food before dinner). I have found that it’s the small steps moving forward that are helping me make things better.