The Readiness is Everything

Here's an email from a blog reader who asked about how to handle hobbies:

"I notice your profile says you enjoy painting. Given that I assume you have your life/home reasonably decluttered, I wonder if you would share how you handle a hobby that has supplies and such. I'm sure you have all necessary supplies in one location, but do you actually schedule time (like an apt) to paint, or do you just spontaneously decide to do it, or what? I have 2 hobbies that I really enjoy (watercolors and piano), but find that I rarely do them. Perhaps it's just the season of life that I'm in.... But let's face it: none of us are going to have large blocks of time with "nothing to do." Maybe sometime you could do a blog post on ideas for handling hobbies/interests??"

I found my life flows much better if I don't set times to be creative. I tried long ago to schedule creativity, but it was frustrating. I'd sit there with a pastel in my hand and no inspiration. I tried again the next day at the same time and sat there doing nothing and feeling like there was something wrong with me. I thought I could just turn it on when I wanted to. What I noticed is the creative energy has a life of its own. I think that can be daunting because we have a tendency to want to control things. But creativity is the greased pig that goes when and where it wants to go.

By admitting I can't control the creativity, I'm happily surprised when it shows up at my door. I do leave out the welcome mat. I have an electric guitar that is plugged in ready to go, my acoustic guitar sits out with picks next to it, there are harmonicas placed around my place, and I have a pad of art paper and a pack of pastels lying in wait. When I'm not feeling creative, I walk by these things and don't notice them. When creativity calls, I naturally gravitate towards the right creative tool. I know from how I work that if I have to go digging for something, I'm apt not to do it. So it's easier for me to have these things sitting out.

This way works for me because it happened naturally over time. It came from getting frustrated with the things that weren't working and that I wasn't enjoy and was trying to make happen, seeing that they were clutter, and dropping them. That's the great thing about long-term frustration, it's so unenjoyable that it makes it easier to drop the thing that's just not serving us.

What if our experience of long-term frustration with our creativity has turned into disappointment and we gave up altogether? We may still have the desire, but we don't try or "find that we rarely do them." Sometimes that comes from wanting to do more than we are capable. I worked with a client once who wanted to write songs. She had bought special paper, the kind with bar lines going across the page so you can write the notes with the words. But she was so busy that she could rarely find the time. When she did find some, she either thought about writing a song and got overwhelmed and stopped, or she tried to write and got frustrated and gave up. Her approach to her creativity was clutter.

I got a magazine page out of the trash. I unscrunched it. I got out a pen. I asked her if she could make up a line. She did. I wrote it down on white space at the top part of the page. I asked her if she could make up another one that rhymed. She did. I gave her the paper and pen and asked her to write it down and she did. I asked her to write a couple of more lines. It was easy for her. Then I asked her to lightly sing me what she wrote. She sang with delight. She was so happy. I told her that her creative process was not formal. It was a natural thing. That's why she couldn't write on the "official" paper. I said when she feels the impulse, she can grab and pen paper laying anywhere and write down what comes to her. The readiness is everything.