Creativity and your day job

This is a great article by Jori Lynn Keyser…check out her website:

11 Tips to surviving a day job with your creativity intact

  There’s no doubt about it — maintaining a day job while all
  your instincts are roaring in another direction is one of the toughest
  things a creative soul can endure. If you’re keeping body and
  soul together for hourly wages and then find yourself too tired
  or distracted or frustrated to be creative after work, you’re
  not alone. It’s sometimes a superhuman challenge to sustain creative
  energy so that the switch to art or writing is as easy as possible
  once you get home.

Here are a few of the many things you can do to stay connected
  to your inner creative thread when circumstances make it impossible
  for you to be in your studio or at your writing desk.

  1.    Name your vision.
          If you’re in love with working in a particular medium, you’re
          heads above the crowd because you know what you love to do. And
          once you know what you love to do, you can create a vision of
          how you will express that in your life. If you love to dance,
          your vision may be to choreograph your own dances or have a dance
          troupe. If you love to work with color, your vision may be to
          paint lots of canvases or illustrate children’s books. Your vision
          functions much like the keel on a sailboat, cutting invisibly
          through the sea to keep the boat upright. If you’re working a
          day job and feel the urge to make art but have no larger vision,
          you probably find yourself scraping through the day with annoyance
          gnawing holes in your belly, saddled with a general sense of dissatisfaction
          and malaise. This isn’t surprising, as you have nothing to carry
          you through the everyday and your feet soon start to drag in the
          sand. Visions are buoyant bubbles that lift the heart and make
          it sing. What’s your vision for your art? What do you really want
          to do?
  2. Set a creative goal that will keep you moving.
          Once you know what your vision is, you can bring it to life by
          setting a goal and working towards it. While we’re very familiar
          with setting goals within the scope of individual projects, we
          may not have thought much about setting goals for the larger context
          within which we’re working. Many artists feel uncomfortable with
          speaking about their art in terms of goals, preferring to “make
          art for art’s sake.” But goals can be applied creatively to
          even the most process-oriented methods. While it may appear that creative
          souls require absolute freedom from restrictions in order to thrive,
          this is one of the many myths surrounding productive artists and
          their work. Productive artists do set goals and work toward them
          with consistency and persistence, and it is exactly this that
          fosters the growth and advancement for which the human spirit
          yearns. A goal that serves your vision will give your everyday
          activities meaning and clarity.
  3. Begin the night before.
          What are your three most important goals for the next day? Now
          it’s time to break the big goal down into do-able steps. Before
          you go to bed, think about the three most important things to
          do the next day to bring you closer to your goal and write them
          down. If you know that you want to publish a novel or exhibit
          your paintings, your daily goals can comprise small but consistent
          concrete steps toward that end. If your aim is to explore your
          medium without worrying too much about a product, decide what
          you want out of that exploration (fun, challenge, greater self-knowledge)
          and then think of small things you can do each day to make it
          happen. By writing down your goals the night before, you’re already
          ahead of the game when you wake up in the morning. Choose your
          goals realistically, keeping in mind the time and energy required
          for your job. Don’t be too hard on yourself; you’re learning
          to balance.
  4. Get up early.
          Don’t laugh — those extra moments or hours can be the most
          productive of your day. Just one extra half-hour in the morning can result
          in a chapter outline or five more woven inches on the loom. The
          stillness of the early hours is a fine time to concentrate. If
          you use the time wisely, you’ll be miles ahead of the rest of
          your time zone. Not everyone functions well in the morning and
          you may resist this idea. But please don’t discount it until you
          give it a fair try. The body can adjust to almost anything, and
          it takes a good three weeks to assume a new habit. Give yourself
          a month of early rising before you go back to burning the midnight
          oil. Just remember to set your goals the night before so you’re
          clear in the morning about why you got out of bed — don’t give
          yourself an excuse to crawl back under the covers. If you’re still
          too tired when the alarm goes off, consider going to bed earlier.
          If the early morning hours turn out to be the best practical time
          for you to make progress on your work, it’s a small price to pay.
          And you may be pleasantly surprised!
  5. Design a morning ritual and do it every day.
          Ritual is like the steady tick-tock of the minute hand through
          our lives. It keeps us on track and moving forward. A ritual is
          a reverent and purposeful act designed to focus energy and concentration.
          Rituals are intensely intimate and private acts, so there are
          as many possibilities as there are individuals. Yours may involve
          writing or painting for a certain time each day, meditating, dancing,
          walking to a special tree, reciting a poem. A fifteen-minute ritual
          in the morning is all it takes to start your day with a creative
          act that will reverberate through all your subsequent movements
          and activities. Make it small and keep it simple, something easily
          hold-able in your heart for the rest of the day. Consecrate that
          act to your art and do it every morning. Watch it take root and
          secure the soil in which it grows.
  6. Learn to do the Lifeboat Exercise.
          In his marvelous little Creativity Book, Eric Maisel suggests
          doing the Lifeboat Exercise once a day for three days in a row,
          but I find it works well as a life raft all year long. Find yourself
          a raucous bell, he says. Ring your bell loudly and shout, “Create!”  Go
          to your workspace, set a timer for ten minutes, and work. When
          the timer goes
          off, shout, “All clear!” You’ve just made
          ten minutes
          progress on your creative work and fed the connection to your
          heart. Now, it may be that your day job is located in such a place
          that you are not able to ring a raucous bell and yell, “Create!”  without jarring your neighbors. That’s
          alright. Set your computer timer to alert you silently and perhaps at random,
          or simply stop
          for your ten minutes when you can. Take a ten-minute break in
          a quiet spot and scribble some notes on your novel or carry water-soluble
          colored pencils and a small sketchbook. Outline the next act of
          your play. A lot can happen during a ten-minute break. Just do
          it the best way you can. But it might be wise to practice ringing
          bells and yelling when you get home. Stopping whatever you’re
          doing to create for ten minutes is an invaluable survival skill,
          and practicing drills at home can save your life out in the world.
  7. Set a theme for the day.
          Just as you would identify the underlying theme of a story or
          a sculpture, you can name a theme and give your day the characteristics
          of a work of art, allowing the parts to inform one another with
          more intent. You might choose to heighten your experience by looking
          at the day through the filter of a project you’re working on,
          or you may decide to play with a new theme, such as gentleness
          or rapture, that speaks to current states of your heart and that
          just may become the theme of an actual project. The point is to
          see the day (and the day job) as a work of art rather than a series
          of drudgeries keeping you from your true vocation. Your art is
          everywhere in your life — it is your life and your life is your
          art. Practice holding this truth in your awareness and you will
          never be bored.
  8. Practice relevance.
          This is the practical extension of setting a theme for the day.
          It’s easy to see our day jobs as intrusions on our valuable time
          and basically irrelevant to the important things in our lives.
          Practicing relevance can enhance the productivity of those hours
          by influencing both the day job tasks and our own art. For many
          years, I was a day-job translator. I’d sit at my computer, sometimes
          falling asleep as I slogged through other people’s texts while
          dreaming of my own unfinished work and feeling the frustration
          rise — until I learned to look for the relevance. I suddenly began
          gleaning all sorts of marketing tips from promotional texts, examples
          of style from annual reports (including what not to do), and interesting
          topics from just about everything else. Staying awake to what
          the work we’re being paid for has to offer our own creative work
          makes the moment richer, the time go faster, and both kinds of
          work qualitatively better.
  9. Put on the headphones and crank up the volume.
          Don’t underestimate the power of fun to jog the energy and get
          it moving in a more creative direction. Listen to music, if you
          can. If you work at home, pet your dog. Open a window and breathe
          in some fresh air. Walk around the hallways and do a little dance
          when no one’s looking. Tell a joke and make someone smile. Pack
          yourself an unusual lunch. Have a cappuccino instead of tea. Fun
          is everywhere in this wonderful universe, just there for the picking.
          Plan a reward for yourself when you get home — a hot bath, a good
          meal, a comedy on DVD. Laugh. Relaxing into laughter or contentment
          renews the connection with your creative self. It can also be
          as refreshing as a nap. Clear the fuzz, blast through the cement
          ceiling in your head, welcome in some sunshine, and let the energy
          flow. As artists our media may appear to be stone or words or
          movement or music, but as creative souls our medium is energy.
          You cannot use energy creatively if you stop it from flowing;
          you won’t have any material to work with. Be its friend, invite
          it in, learn to dance.
  10. Surround yourself with who you are.
          Everyone in every job has at least two inches of workspace they
          can call their own. You may have a desk or a locker or an entire
          office to yourself. Bring your inspiration to work and don’t be
          shy. Decorate your office, select a motivational screen saver, dress the
          part (if you can). Surround yourself as much as possible
          with what you do and what you love. It will bolster your spirits,
          remind you of who you are and what’s important to you. Do not
          be afraid of using props — be a stage designer. My painting teacher
          was fond of hanging plastic wrap from the ceiling across the width
          of a room to demonstrate the light that was traveling through
          the space we occupied and how it was affecting the colors of the
          objects we saw. For years I would drape plastic wrap from whatever
          ceiling I could, wherever I worked, wherever it was tolerated,
          to remind myself of what I wanted to remember. Be creative in
          designing your stage. See working with the limitations of your
          workspace as an artistic challenge. Learn to see yourself and
          your vision for yourself reflected in your environment, wherever
          you are.
  11. Be grateful.
          Gratitude is a prosperous and productive state of mind, and absolutely
          essential to true creativity. Remembering to be grateful for the
          fact that we’re earning money at all and putting food on the table
          keeps us open to the positive things that come our way throughout
          the day. Gratitude for what we do have, not resentment about what
          we don’t have, is what makes it possible for the Universe to send
          us what we want. It keeps a smile close to our lips and makes
          us much more pleasant to be around. Gratitude is a miraculous
          blessing, because while we’re being grateful for the gifts that
          have been given us, the very act of being grateful benefits us
          in ways we cannot count. Practice being grateful, deeply grateful,
          for a short period of time and see how you feel. If you’re having
          trouble giving thanks because you can’t see past your lack of
          money or time or the necessities of life, try starting with air,
          sunshine (or rainfall), blades of grass, leaves on trees, roofs
          over heads. Abundance is everywhere. Once you start naming the
          blessings that surround you, you may not be able to stop.

  Each of these points deserves a book of its own, and there are
  many more tiles in the ever-surprising mosaic of creative process.
  For now, start where you are. Look upon your day job as the blessing
  it is while you set your formidable creativity to the joyful task
  of honoring your art every day and growing from the challenge.

In the meantime, examine your big vision, select a goal or two,
  and watch everything in your life align in that direction as you
  move steadily and surely toward your heart’s desire. •

  1. Ginger said:

    Hi, Robin,
    Once again, congratulations!
    I love the piece on Creativity and Your Day Job, especially the Life Boat 10 minutes…and theme for the day…I’m inspired to learn more lyrics…amoung other things…Hope this finds you well and creating…you must be readying to take some aloha to China! Yes, Tuesday I see…how exciting!!! Let us know what it’s like to meditate in China! Your senses will be so alive…not that they are not now, as an artist…
    Take good care of yourself for us,

  2. I couldn’t figure out why I found the article so odd…then I realized that my day job has always been to be creative (which makes being creative on your own time even harder, your left brain is just plumb wore out)! 😉

  3. Just found your remarkable blog. Adding it to my blogroll. I am creative in disparate ways all day long. Wearing many hats. I am glad to get some ideas to help regenerate my personal creativity.
    Wonderful post.

  4. Jim Bazin said:

    This gave me a headache! Too many words! Sound familiar?
    JUST DO IT! 🙂

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