By Shannon McFarland
So you want to be more creative. Me too!
Today I woke up, the first day of the new year, feeling I was zapped by a lightning strike of creativity. January 1, 2018!
Honestly, it could be a side effect of several nights of NyQuil-induced coma, battling a cold, cough, and constant fatigue. After days of feeling like a lethargic pile crap and trying not to be frustrated with my body, this was the first time in days I felt alive.
A few days of rest, for my brain and body, does wonders. Let me tell you, it was straight up magical. What a fantastic start to a new year.
For several months, I’ve been mulling over the power of storytelling, strategy, and the magic of creativity. Leaning deeply into my curiosity. Today was just a breakthrough of ideas, colliding all at once. While you certainly can’t manufacture moments of creativity like that, I know there are a few factors that led to my 2018 starting off on January 1st as a great year.
1. Rest up
Perhaps on New Year’s Eve, you were up to midnight partying into the New Year! I hope it was wonderful and you had a magnificent night, just like they do in the movies.
I can’t do that anymore. For a few years, I’ve tried out a different approach to welcoming in the new year. Waking up hydrated, without a hangover, and well-rested is a wonderful way to start the year. Telling myself that on Day One of this new year, you can rest. Cut yourself a break. Don’t feel guilty for a full night of rest.
I was making a blanket fort at home and in bed at 9 p.m. Aside from recovering from an illness, parties and late nights out just aren’t my thing anyway. Also, blanket forts are an excellent activity celebrate with your loved ones at home when it is around 0 degrees F outside.
By prioritizing my health and rest, that opened the door for more creative thoughts. But it was not just a New Year’s fluke for me, I’ve started to prioritize sleep much more in the last year, along with exercise and eating well.
I’m sure inspiration can find you when you are tired and exhausted, but this is not my experience. I’m more likely to be irritable and run on autopilot if I’m tired. Not usually the kind of mental state where your curiosity wanders, your words flow, or you notice new and unusual ideas.
I’m committed to giving my body the rest it needs. How can I ask my mind to be creative when I’m exhausted?
2. Make places to belong
When creativity takes hold of you, it seeps into everything you do. All your conversations. I’m recently obsessed with the idea of belonging (thank you, Brené Brown). With the idea of “belonging” to yourself. Standing in your truth. Creating the place that you want to be.
This is seeping into my life big ways, but also tiny practical ways. In big ways, like starting out on my own freelancing/consulting. Taking ownership of my career and creating my own path.
But also in small ways. For example, I have always wanted a book club.
It’s not something I’ve thought too much about, just in passing here and there. I’ve thought enough that I’ve briefly browsed clubs that exist in my area. At some time, I realized that what I wanted was a particular kind of book club. A nonfiction community, that focused on subjects and memoirs close to our real lives through sharing stories, anecdotes, and memoirs. Our actual problems and finding those ideas that can bring us closer to solutions. Our personal problems, as well as the problems of the world around us.
So I’m making a nonfiction book club! In Somerville, Mass. if you are in the area. (More details on this later.)
This year, I want to continue cultivating the relationships and participating in the communities where creativity and ideas thrive. Not just finding those places, but also building and creating them.
3. Push more into the void
My goal is to publish every single day for January. There, I’ve put it out there. I said it out loud and published it to the internet. I’m committed.
I already write every single day, but I often keep my words to myself. I want to let go a little more. Hit publish.
I’ve been a writer for a decade now. My first work was published when I was in college. A nonfiction short story in a college literary journal. Some reviews, interviews, and editing for the student newspaper. For five years, I wrote for college publications, internships, and then professionally writing stories. But writing for a paycheck is very often a different kind of writing than writing from the heart.
I was writing constantly. I was hooked.
I’ll be honest, lots of it was crap. And that’s okay. We write to connect, to communicate, to find words to describe our journey here on this earth. Everything has a first draft full of half-formed thoughts, poor word choices, and unfinished sentences. That is part of the search for finding meaning inside of the void.
I write for the love of it. The enjoyable and healing process of creating. And I keep pushing my writing out into the void because I want to believe that eventually, something will stick. Something, someday, will rise out of the void. If we just keep creating and throwing our work at the void, something will eventually be meaningful and last. It’s a lovely dream.
But if we let the void stop us, hold us back, prevent us from creating and speaking, we just whither and shrink. We give in to fear.
I don’t want my next year ruled my fear. I want to chase my curiosity, to wander after the creative thoughts when inspiration strikes.
These are my big resolutions for 2018: Rest up, making places of belonging, and keep pushing at the void.