Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Packing More into Your 24: Habits of the Highly Creative

Keeping vodka bedside and imbibing snuff daily are two of the not-so-nice habits of many creatives, according to a recent buzzworthy book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Curry.

However, there is much for even Christian authors to glean from the ideas here.

Ever since I found this infographic making the rounds on facebook, I've found myself wondering what do these people do that I don't? Apparently, lots. (Be sure to click the link to study the charts for yourself!)

So what do the top 16 creatives (including Franklin, Darwin, Dickens, Milton and the lone female inclusion Maya Angelou) have in common? How can these insights help us in our quest for building our own creativity?

1) To sleep, perchance to dream:

In this busy world, lack of sleep becomes a brag point, especially in the trenches of the career and parenting years. Its as if our puffy, violet-rimmed eyes are a badge of honor.

However, with the exception of Mr. Freud's 6 hour stretches (mayhaps that may explain a theory or two?) the individuals identified as the most creative slept 7-8 hours per night.

I know for me my clarity in thinking IS affected by even one night of lost sleep, apparently the same is true even for the most well-known minds.

Something as simple as turning off that light at night and allowing yourself to get those 8 hours might be a game changer for your story.

Ever hear the phrase, "sleep on it?" A nap might be just what you need to get the creative juices flowing again.

2) Have an unchanging block of time devoted to writing:

But you may say, I'm not a schedule person. I fly by the seat of my pants.

I find whatever I don't include in my schedule has a tendency to not get finished.

How can you be more intentional about having a block of time every day:

-Creatives know their best times of day: If you are one of those people who can't function without a long shower and coffee, then perhaps the 5 am. shift isn't the best time for you to write. On the other hand, take into consideration the schedules of your family. If you have young children, an afternoon naptime block may not be the best time for you creatively, but you may need to learn to work within this timeframe for now.

-Creatives understand what type of time blocking is best for them.Perhaps you need a shorter span of time, an hour when you get up for writing, then an hour during your lunch break, and a last hour at night. Or maybe you work best in one block.

-Creatives stick to their routine day in and day out until it becomes a habit.

3) Shake your body:

Almost all of the people on the list take a daily walk. Several run. A few on the list take walks that last for hours at a time. Milton walked up and down his garden for four hours a day.

-Moving your body increases your energy and work output throughout the day: I find working out is a game-changer to my whole day. Although carving the hour out of my day is a challenge, its amazing how it adds productivity to the rest of my day.

subtract time, add energy is a winning balanced out equation!

-Walking in beautiful surroundings provides inspiration. There is a great series of books entitled Great Hikes in (name your state) which lists noteworthy spots. If you are stuck for ideas, often a change of setting helps. Also, don't forget you can be doing research on the very real settings around you to make your own settings more realistic.

-Exercise is a great time for thinking and praying about your story. Time free from the noise and busyness of cell phones (leave them at home), computers, and the hustle and bustle of life in this 21st century may be all the quiet you need to think through your idea. Our loud world is a big time creativity blocker and we need to be intentional about finding solitude and silence as it just doesn't happen naturally.

4) Social time:

Kant visited with a friend for several hours daily. Balzac's evenings involved a bath and receiving visitors. And Victor Hugo, creator of Les Miserables, took a long carriage ride with his girlfriend daily.

-Observing and listening improves your characters and your dialogue. Real-life people are the fodder for your stories. Clothing, gestures, facial expressions, body language can all be observed in the process of everyday life.

-A fuller life equals a fuller writing life. There is a certain joie de vivre that spills out from our everyday life into our writing life allowing us to write words that minister to others.

5) Prayer and meditation:

There are few things that can nurture our energy more than time spent with the Lord. Make sure you keep it as a part of your unchanging daily routine.

I know many writers start their writing time in prayer and it has definitely helped me. Not looking to God as a magical genie to fixing your writing problems, but instead he is working on your character through your calling to write.

6) Read, read, read!

A majority of the top 16 minds listed spent time daily reading. They recognized that other's knowledge can help us grow and had a hunger to learn at the feet of other greats. Even if its 10-15 minutes, make time daily to read and not just in the genres you want to write in. Read a variety of topics, genres from many mediums.

7) Find time to do what energizes you.

Whether taking baths, bicycling, carriage riding, spending time with friends, or drinking black coffee (Balzac was said to have drank up to 40 cups daily!) all creative people spent time doing something that they enjoyed daily even if only for a few minutes. What can you make the time for today to energize you?

What habits have helped you in your quest for creativity?

Julia writes contemporary fiction to mirror truth. A former assistant librarian, she now channels her card cataloguing skills into homeschooling her elementary aged littles and writing for Library Journal. She has reviewed for a variety of websites for several years.


Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Oh Julia, I love this! It is always such inspiration to see how successful people live. Not that we want to "copy"....not that we could replicate what they do and gain the same success, but there are truths and values there that make successful people successful.

Thank you for sharing this!

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

So fascinating, Julia! Great stuff here, and I know for sure that my life is waaaay out of balance in a few of those areas! Lack of sleep for one, lack of exercise for another - I've been burning the candle at both ends this year, and it's hard to imagine how I could pack anything else into my days. I currently have zero downtime as every evening is spent working on my blog, even when I don't feel like it (which is often, when I'm tired!) And there is always SO much more to do! I cannot get on top of my list!

Like you say, though, I'm pretty sure I would be more productive if I could figure out how to squeeze some exercise and a decent night's sleep back into my schedule. In good news, I'm currently working double-time to schedule some posts ahead so I can take time off with friends over Easter. I'll need it! Thanks for a thought-provoking and well-written post!

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Great post, Julia! I love all the tips you shared here. I'm working to get a good sleep habit established again. I tend to ebb and flow, depending on what's going on in life any given day, week or month. :) I also need to get back on a regular exercise regimen. It's never been one of my favorite things to spend time on, but the older I get the more of a necessity it becomes. :)

I'm definitely going to be working on some of these tips. Thanks again for sharing them!

Julia M. Reffner said...

@Sherrinda, exactly. I know sleeping more isn't going to make me as creative as Maya Angelou, but I think if it can give us that little bit of boost...its worth it. I love reading these kinds of statistics and finding common denominators.

@Karen, with the age of your children not surprising you are low on the sleep. Hoping you can find the time for an occasional siesta or at least to get an extra few minutes of sleep. Hang in there!

@Jeanne, I know what you're saying. Exercise and sleep are definitely two of the bigger challenges and I don't love exercise either but I know what you mean about getting older and needing it even more.

Pepper said...

What an interesting post, Julia! Wow - I don't even like coffee, but I feel like I should be drinking some :-)

My writing 'chunk' is usually in short doses and inconsistent, so maybe I need to work on that a bit.

Walking really does help me feel better all around, not just think better.
Great tips

Julia M. Reffner said...

Pepper, I'm unsure about the caffeine connection. After all, it looks like most had a good night's sleep. Maybe I don't have to feel so guilty about my big cup with milk and splenda each morning :)

Short doses seems to work very well for you. If you think about it, though, many of these people didn't have day jobs separate from their writing/artistry.

Kathleen T. Jaeger said...

I love this list! Thanks for sharing. I see that I do many of these things. I never thought that tied into my writing life. It seems it give me permission to do and to guard these things in my life.