I can’t believe this is my final Sunday Sanctuary for Modern Creative Life. It seems like only mere moments ago, I was writing my first column sharing my love for Housekeeping and Creative Living. And where those worlds of mine collide. And, in truth, how life sometimes pulls me away from writing and having the tidy home I need to be at my best.
The timing of this column is apropos.
I have been home for a little over twenty-four hours after seventeen days of travel. The suitcases have been unpacked and though I’ve gone to the dry cleaners and have done five loads of laundry, the basket in my laundry room is overflowing. There are at least three more loads of laundry to do in order to be “caught up”.
There’s a thick layer of dust across the buffet that stands in our entry hall. Something I didn’t notice when I got home on a gloomy afternoon. But can’t help but see as the morning light shines in through the glass on the front door. I was carrying a tray laden with coffee and cream and the other accoutrements of spending a Sunday morning in our downstairs den, so I didn’t stop to remedy the situation.
But oh, did I want to! To immediately deal with the untidy situation. Despite the fact that the cleaning lady will be here in a couple of days. Despite the fact that I know cleaning one piece of furniture will lead to tackling every other piece of furniture in that house.
Though the immediate reason I didn’t stop to dust was the tray in my hands, the reason I didn’t immediately rush back upstairs is that I’m trying to create some new habits when it comes to my creative life.
When we made the decision to put Modern Creative Life in stasis, one of the core parts of that decision was the need (and desire) to tend our own creative demands. Less editing should equal more writing time for my coaching practice. Less editing should equal more story creation for Melissa. Less editing should equal more creative living for Becca.
But to be honest, I am not yet writing more for my coaching practice.
Yes, not editing here will open up a block of time for me. However, what is keeping me from writing more is my own bad habits.
Travel is a great way to get honest with yourself when it comes to life. When we are in different surroundings, we automatically shift away from the ways we live at home. Though I desperately need my routines, I have to admit that those routines are often chock-full of actions that keep me from producing good work.
The last six days of our travel were spent in Honolulu.
Each morning, I made a pot of coffee in the room. And when John headed to work, me and my first cup of coffee walked two blocks to the beach. As I sipped, I watched the sun rise. We were on the west side of the island, which meant that as the light began to bathe the earth, I was treated to varying degrees of pinks and greys and golden rays.
I took lots of photos to the north (hotels and surfers) and to the south (Diamond Head and beach walkers). I walked along the beach and watched the tide rush over my feet, leaving behind tiny shells and heart shaped pebbles. I watched people. Some surfing, some admiring the beauty around them, and others simply going about their day getting in a morning run.
Those moments of watching the light, sipping coffee, and taking photographs were far different from what I do on a regular day. However, if I am to be completely honest with you (and myself) though I cannot walk to the beach in Ohio each morning? The heart and soul of those mornings can be duplicated here at home.
Though I didn’t get much solid work writing done during our travels, I did write in my journal. Here’s some of my observations about what is really in the way of me producing more work.
I need to read less news.
I want to be an informed citizen of the world. However, my habit of reading the news is keeping me from writing. Not only do I read the headlines, I read multiple articles. I read the comments folks leave behind. I click around to other news stories in the sidebar. I worry about the craziness of the world. And before I know it, not only have I lost an hour of time, my brain is full. Rather than spinning stories and finding creative solutions to a problem, all my brain power has been spent. And I am worn out.
I need to click around less on social media.
I love knowing what folks are up to. I love seeing morning routines of loved ones. And new babies and glimpses of travels and links to the writings of amazing folks. But all that scrolling and clicking and scrolling and clicking keeps me from writing. Especially when I “check in” first thing in the morning. Once again, I spend precious thinking power and wear myself out.
I need to unfollow more people on social media.
All that scrolling and clicking has the potential to be more uplifting and less exhausting. I know this because when I first began blogging, reading other blogs spurred me on. If I unfollow every person that complains, focuses on the negative, or spreads fear, that means my feeds should be filled with more light and grace and inspiration. I go through spells of this, but I know I need to be more protective of what I take into my brain (and heart).
I need to find better people to follow on social media.
Just like those early days of blogging, I know there are great folks out there doing amazing work. I need to seek them out. To follow them on social media and see their photos. To click on their links and fill my mind and heart with quality input. I also need to follow more great photographers on Instagram whose sole purpose is to fill my feed with beauty. I am in need of more beauty.
I need to go to church.
There are times I forget that my soul needs a little formal nourishment. When I was in Honolulu, I went to morning mass at St. Augustine by the Sea a couple of times. It was at the end of the block from my hotel. And easy to slip into after watching the sunrise. There’s something about attending mass in the middle of the week that nourishes me in ways that going to Church on Sundays does not. And it seems to help me find my center. I could use the excuse that church isn’t “convenient” at home like it was in Honolulu. While not a block a away, it’s still within biking distance…
I need to take more walks.
In her book The Artist’s Way, Julie Cameron prescribes a series of activities to spur creativity. In addition to now famous morning pages and artist dates, she recommends regular walks. Not with the purpose of burning calories, but simple to BE. To notice. To feel the wind across your face, to hear the twittering birds, and to see scampering wild life.
I need to read more books. And magazines.
To be a better writer, reading is a must. However, when I have been reading the news, social media, and email, the last thing I want to do is crack open a book. If I begin the day with my phone in rather than a book and my journal, I never produce as much. Fiction never fails to move my brain in different directions.
And dare I mention magazines? So many magazines put all their content on line and I subscribe to few. Yet, the few I do read, always inspire me. My time is well spent flipping through glossy pages because my brain gets beautifully stimulated.
I need to eat better.
Our bodies need fuel. While we were traveling, not only did I have coffee each morning. No, after I watched the sun rise I’d head to the Starbucks on the corner and have their egg white bites. Two tiny little egg and pepper omelettes. At home, though, I start with the best intentions. Yet, often, coffee is it for hours upon hours before I eat real food. Just like my brain needs better inputs, my body needs quality fuel.
I need a tidy home.
Nothing distracts me more than dust. And piles of laundry. And stacks of papers. I’ve cut my cleaning lady back to once a month because we’ve been traveling. And, to be honest, I am distracted when she’s here. What I used to do was head out for errands or go to Barnes and Noble to write or look at books. Getting her back onto a bi-weekly schedule helps me tend the stuff in between, too. But, again, if I were to be honest, sometimes I use the excuse of needing to clean to delay writing. (Nope, I still haven’t dusted the buffet yet. Yay for me!)
I need to procrastinate less.
This last column is late. Yes, I am still publishing it on the due date, but I should have written it earlier in the week instead of on Sunday morning. I know it’s human to wait until a deadline to finish something. However, I need to put more thought into my writing by giving things space to breathe. My writing is always better when I draft and then revisit the next day. So, better planning and less dragging my feet is more important than I would like to admit.
I need to protect my precious attention.
The one thing all this has in common? Attention. Focus. I protect my precious focus and attention like a lioness protecting her cub. But rather than honing that precious attention to writing and other forms or creative living, I allow myself to be distracted. Some of it may feel out of my control – the news! Facebook! the Dust! I’m too busy – but it really isn’t. Is it? I am responsible for this. I am the only one who can tend my creative life and focus and attention. So, if I want to write more, then I need to pay attention to all the ways I allow myself to love focus.
While each of these items seem small and as if they should hold no power over me, I am the first to admit that the smallest of things can be huge when it comes to moving forward. The cure for creating more good work is to create more good work. To tune out what distracts me, keep my head down, and allow the words to flow from an inspired brain, nourished soul, and tended body.
What about you? Do any of these ring true to what keeps you from being creative? What advice would you give me – and others – to protect that precious creative energy?
Post script: I am sad to be leaving you here at Modern Creative Life. I will miss sharing the corners of my creative life with you. And more than that, I will miss being inspired by editing your work. Please do stay in touch. I am ever grateful for your love, support, and presence in my creative life.
About the Author: Debra Smouse
Debra Smouse is a self-admitted Tarnished Southern Belle, life coach, and author. When she’s not vacuuming her couch, you’ll find her reading or plotting when she can play her next round of golf. She’s the Editor in Chief here at Modern Creative Life. Connect with her on Medium, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.