I’ve had this theory about life for a while now, ever since I embraced simplicity many years ago.
Life, a good life, a life well lived, is about maintenance. It isn’t chance or luck or fate (though I believe in those things, and in magic too); it’s about doing the work to create the life you want, and doing it over and over and over again.
Not that long ago, my writing life resembled un-watered grass. I let the passion I have for writing and words get away from me in my quest for an adult life. I begrudged anyone who had ever done anything creative—they must have more time, more money, more luck, the right connections, or something, anything, I didn’t have.
All my unused creativity turned into bitterness. I’m not one for jealousy or envy, because I know the value of living a happy, grateful life.
Still, all that unused creativity made me feel like I had no purpose in life—looking around I saw dried up, brown grass. What I should have been tending to, lay fallow and ignored.
By mere chance, I picked up a book on simple living at the library. It was spring, and while everything came to life around me, I felt—well, in retrospect, I think I felt nothing. A sort of apathy had taken over. Sitting on the back steps of my patio, flipping through that book, something clicked.
For me, simplicity and creativity go hand in hand. I spent over a year simplifying my life—decluttering, meditating, and becoming very purposeful about what I wanted and needed, and how those two things are different.
Then, one day, I sat down and started writing. Writing so much, in fact, that I finished the first draft of a novel.
Writing (and all creativity) needs space. It needs intention and purpose. Like grass, it needs to be watered, and how can you water it if you’re so busy attending to all the other “things” in your life?
Finding your simplicity edge can take some time and energy. There will be lots of sorting and deciding and donating and throwing away. Making space—physical space—can make a huge difference in your life; it is worth every minute decluttering.
And you deal with all your “stuff”, there is the mental and emotional stuff to be dealt with too: Is your calendar jam-packed because you hate to say no? Are you working a job you dislike to pay the bills you’ve accrued from all those purchases? Sometimes these things clutter up your mental and physical space, and need to be dealt with in order to find time to do what you love.
Here are some ways I’ve found to nurture your creative life:
1. Say no.
To invitations and purchases, to guilt about disappointing others and items you don’t need. We all have our weaknesses—mine is shoes, my partner’s is helping people—but learning to say no, is really the first step in simplifying your way back to creativity. It isn’t selfish to honor your creative self; it’s self-care.
2. Have fun.
Creativity is about creation, and creation is fun. It should be enjoyable. If it doesn’t appeal to you, don’t force yourself to do it—because “should” is very different than “want.”
3. Keep the editor away.
The editor has her place in creative “work”—like when I write book reviews or polish stories for publication—but she has no place in the creative sphere. Figure out a way to keep her busy or send her packing, and only call on her when her not-picky voice might actually be useful.
4. Be curious.
Embrace your curiosity as a natural state. Curiosity is key. Without it, creativity can’t thrive.
5. Expect and embrace imperfection.
Perfection is creativity’s enemy.
6. Toot your horn.
I’m terrible at this but I’m learning. People love to talk about creative endeavors—and it is inspiring to see how and what others are doing. Don’t be afraid to say, Hey, I painted that or Hey, I wrote a poem.
7. But don’t compare.
The grass is not greener anywhere else. You’re just looking at it from a different angle, and perception can be deceiving.
8. Keep it simple.
Don’t run out and buy anything you think you need to be creative. Creativity isn’t about items—though you may need brushes or a pencil or paper—it’s about the act. Start small, start with what you have.
9. Allow space and time.
Creativity really only needs space and time, two of the hardest gifts to give yourself. Clear a corner in your home, forgo a night out with friends, and begin.
10. Make it a routine.
This might sound anathema to creativity—it’s all about inspiration right?—but it’s actually the key. The grass doesn’t get green from the occasional heavy watering. It gets green from regular tending.
Creativity is the same: Attend to it everyday—the results are worth the effort.