I have written about four hundred poems in just one year. And I’ve drawn over five hundred sketches. How did I do it?
One day at a time. One stroke at a time. One word at a time. I made a simple goal for myself: write one poem a day. And by setting that simple goal and setting aside the time, I’ve become more creative. I’ve written more and drawn more than I did in the previous ten years. I’ve published a few of the poems through Blue Rivers, none of them brilliant, but each of them expresses my creativity.
In order to accomplish that goal I had to do a few things: toss out the expectation that every poem needs to be great, set aside a few minutes everyday to write, and buy a notebook dedicated to poems.
If you want to go jogging regularly, it helps when you put on your jogging suit. Once the jogging suit is on, it feels like it’s time to get out the door. Similarly, making a space, even a small one, makes it easier to be creative.
Interestingly, my dedication to this goal has had a halo effect, like regular exercise, where suddenly a fount of creativity has emerged in my life. I find myself popping off dozens of funny little rhymes to my boys while driving. My writing at work has improved. My creativity has multiplied.
Then one day I found myself wanting to sketch, so I bought a sketch book and started drawing a sketch everyday. Now, I find myself sketching at curious times and places. Some days, I’ll produce twenty or more sketches. All simply because I’ve gotten into the habit of expressing my creativity.
Most of the poems I’ve written are pure drivel. The sketches, terrible scribbles on the page not worth sharing.
But I take heart from something Robert Hass said while I was in college, that it’s important to have a compost pile. Most of the poems and sketches have been compost and will be compost, but I’ve had a few fragrant flowers emerge the manure. And those, I’ll nurture and develop into work worth sharing.
And like Ira Glass said in The Art of Storytelling, the first couple years you may not produce any creative work with that “special thing”, but if you continue to produce a volume of work it will eventually be as good as your ambitions.
I encourage you to create a little everyday. Whatever it is, writing, sketching, cooking, gardening. You’ll be happier for it.