- I feel better afterwards. I love moving my body and I love the people I dance with. We have fun, we share our lives, and we play with dance. Even when it gets hard or frustrating between us, I am still glad I went, because I am being creative.
- I am compulsively devoted to, and fascinated by, the creative process. I am intrigued and amazed by what we discover and create, by the ups and downs of the creative process, by the wisdom and inventiveness of the body.
- My life flows better. I feel aligned with my deepest values and passions (creativity and connection). I am doing what I love, being who I long to be (an artist). My life feels more meaningful, fulfilling, fun and connected, and everything tends to flow better as a result.
So how do we move beyond resistance? First of all, it is helpful to know that you will need an initial burst of will power every time you begin to create. Just enough to get you into the studio or to open your instrument case or to take out a fresh sheet of paper to write. Enough to shut out the distractions and make the radical choice to begin. Enough to quiet the clamoring voices within that are telling you are not good enough, that this activity is pointless, that there are a thousand more urgent things to do.
Since will power is a relatively weak force, I am going to share with you three incredibly helpful tools to move past resistance and into doing what you love.
1) Have a schedule. Because I meet with my friends every Wednesday night, I almost never schedule other activities on Wednesday nights, and I have way less inner argument about whether to go or not. Others are counting on me—and that helps—and it’s just what I do on Wednesdays. Even though I may feel tired and want to stay home, I don’t heed those voices.
Having a regular set schedule is one of the most effective ways to reduce resistance and ensure that you will actually make art, because it turns your art-making into a habit. A habit is an activity that you do automatically without questioning it. For instance, most of us have the habit of brushing our teeth in the morning. You don’t have to go through a big battle with yourself every time to get yourself to brush your teeth.
So, create a schedule for your creative activities, and if at all possible, keep it the same week to week. Don’t wait for inspiration to strike. If you show up regularly, inspiration will too.
Start small and build on your successes, rather than sabotaging yourself with an overly ambitious plan at the outset. Perhaps you start with one two-hour period a week, or two one-hour periods. Perhaps you start with 10 minutes a day. This will depend on your artistic needs, when you have your best creative energy, and when you can find time in your life.
When I used to compose chamber music, I could not work with less than a two-hour block of time, and I preferred having four- or five-hour blocks of time. I needed plenty of time to get into the music, and I did not like to be interrupted once I got in that flow.
As a poet, I can write a draft of a new poem in half an hour, but I still prefer to have two hours minimum, so I can really enter the creative state and get some work done. I also tend to lose touch with my creative flow if I do not have at least three creative periods during the week.
For some of you a single two-hour block of time is all you can carve out of your life right now. Start with that. For a year, I did almost all my writing in one five-hour block on the weekends. During the week I would dabble with writing or revising or just reading in the evenings and while I rode the subway, and I took a poetry class one night a week. That was a very productive period of my creative life.
Create a schedule that works for you, experiment a bit until it feels right, then stick to it zealously. It will require quite a bit of will power at first, and then it will become natural. You will fall into a rhythm and come to love that time and how you feel, having had that time. You will learn to treat that time as sacred and not schedule appointments during your creative time.
2) Have companions. Just the way that having a workout buddy gets you to the gym, having creative companions to practice and/or share your art with is unbelievably important to a creative life.
Get together on Saturday afternoons to play music with a friend. Meet with a writing group once a month to share your writing. Work in a collective of artists’ studios, so you can feel the buzz around you and have others to talk to. Take a class. Start a Meetup group or find an existing one to join. Go places where you will meet other artists. Find the ones you feel a resonance with and agree to meet, phone or email each other regularly.
You need companions to help you stay motivated, give you accountability, and share your creative ups and down. When you have companions, resistance diminishes, and the whole process becomes more fun and more meaningful.
3) Have deadlines. Whether it is scheduling an art show or a performance, arranging a house concert for yourself or a tea party to share your work with a few friends, or setting a date by which you will finish your first draft of your story and send it to a friend or editor, deadlines are wildly motivating and help us move past resistance into action. They give us a goal to work toward, clarity of focus, and the sense of fruition and accomplishment. We need these things to stay the course in a creative life.
Far from being crutches, these three wildly helpful tools are commonly used by productive artists everywhere. Use them and enjoy a creative, fulfilling life!
For now: Choose just one of these tools that you will implement right away. What step will you commit to taking this week to bring that tool into your life?