The Balance Beam of Creativity

Photo by Steven Depolo
Photo by Steven Depolo

There’s a local writing group that I’ve been attending on and off for two years. I recently went to a group workshop meeting that got me thinking about the importance of balance when being creative. We  discussed how if you force yourself to write everyday at a set time, you’ll eventually just be going through the motions to honor the schedule you set for yourself.

On the other hand, if you write whenever you’re inspired, who knows when the creative muse will come knocking on your door next? It could take forever to finish what you’ve started if you exclusively take that route.  All in all, trying to establish a helpful writing process for yourself can be tricky! As someone who’s struggled with writer’s block,  I’ve always preferred to write when inspired.

But when I do, I’m left with a bunch of half-finished pieces and no clue on how to finish them. The leader of the writing group suggested scheduling a set time each day to  write once an idea is fully established. So now I’ve decided to shake it up, allowing myself to write on a whim until I have a solid idea or sense of direction.

I’ve learned that when writing, you have to start somewhere. You can’t worry about how bad it is and what it’s missing when you’re unleashing it from within for the first time. In Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life,  Novelist Anne Lamott encourages writers to, “make big scrawls and mistakes” and “use up lots of paper.” “Perfectionism”, she says, “is a mean frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friend.”

But at some point, when you have enough to work with and a general sense of where you are going with it, you’ll need to hunker down and commit to writing regularly in order to shape what you have into an actual story, poem, play, or whatever you want it to be.

How do you know when it’s time to commit to a piece of writing? One indicator can be if you see a recurring  story line, theme, or character in your free writing. When something jumps out and begs you to stop and take a closer look, then you should probably start  giving it the attention that it deserves regularly.

Okay, time for me to get to it!

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