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Trusting the Creative Process

I do not procrastinate. I like organization and routines. Each Sunday I sit down with my planner and contemplate the week ahead. I review both appointments and tasks and then create a schedule to meet those demands. I strive to make life as stress-free as possible.

This is my normal, left-brained world.

My creative life is a different story.

While I try to plan manageable schedules, editorial calendars, and brainstorming sessions, my right-brain refuses to cooperate. Sure, I go through the motions, but there is little concrete evidence on the page. Stress sets in and I begin to doubt: Do I have anything worthwhile to say?

As the deadline draws near, I start to panic. I make myself put butt in chair, but the well is dry. I’m convinced I will never write again. What made me think I could do this?

Inevitably, about 48-hours before the project is due, the creative juices begin to flow. I have a snippet of an idea. I quickly jot it down. I go for a walk to gain a bit of clarity. More ideas follow. I see the connection and a thesis is born.

The day before the deadline I again put butt in chair, but this time I type. I start slow. I write one paragraph then re-read, revise, and edit. I move on to the second paragraph and do the same. After two hours of diligent labor, an 800-1,000 word draft appears on the page. I am confident I will meet the deadline. Crisis averted.

This is the same scenario every time. After years of repeating this experience, I’ve decided to accept the process rather than fight it. While I may wish I could write more consistently, turn on the creativity when needed, and meet a deadline before the last minute… that is not my style.

I do the majority of my creative processing in my subconscious. I don’t look productive – I don’t feel productive – but the wheels are turning nevertheless.

In order to bring those underground ideas to the surface, however, they need a bit of pressure. The deadline obliges. Once the first idea is released, a path is established for others to follow. The greater the pressure the more plentiful the ideas.

Since I know I write approximately 500 words an hour, I can calculate when to start the project in order to finish on-time. I quickly outline those ideas into a cohesive format and begin to write.

Self-acceptance is liberating. Rather than worry weeks before the due date, I will simply trust my subconscious is at work. I will no longer grow anxious as the deadline looms ahead, for I know the pressure will work for me not against me. Intermittent brainstorm sessions and long leisurely walks will help lure those hidden ideas into the light. My work ethic will ensure the final product is the best I can do.

My process may not follow “the rules” and it may not work for anyone else. But its long-running track record proves it works for me.

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