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“What do you love about creating? What value does creativity bring to your life?”
I ask these questions when I begin coaching a new client, whether it’s a writer who wants to spend more time at the page, an artist who needs a confidence boost to get her website online, or a musician looking for a practice time that won’t wake up the kids.
Everyone answers these questions differently, but I notice that people often talk about the personal side, how creativity lifts their mood and gives their life richness and purpose.
That doesn’t mean that the external rewards aren’t good too ― most artists like to make money and get positive reviews for their work. But those things can be elusive and won’t fuel the creative fire day after day.
When you reconnect with the inherent benefits of your creative life, you find what you need to be creative more often:
- Motivation: You’re drawn to do your work when you know what the work gives back to you.
- Energy: You give yourself a boost by focusing on the joy and meaning of the creative process.
- Permission: You feel justified in taking time for your creativity because you know the time is well spent.
One of my clients, “Erica,” is a musician with a part-time job and two young children. When I asked her about the value of her music, to herself and to the world, she wrote:
My music gives me a window into beauty. It’s a vehicle to experience emotions that I don’t often encounter in everyday life, like when I listen to a Chopin piano piece and end up in tears.
Making music is an enjoyable task in itself. I enjoy the physical and mental exercises of playing. As far as activities go, there’s nothing I enjoy more.
I enjoy collaborating with others, helping them sound better or feel less nervous. I enjoy doing something that is easy or pleasurable for me but yet would be very difficult for someone else or time consuming or would be missed.
I like sharing my knowledge. I believe the world is better by passing on my gifts to others.
Remembering and expressing what she loved about music helped Erica make it a priority in her life. I asked her to come up with a practice schedule and she began playing for herself again, learning pieces she enjoyed and having fun.
Then Erica had a few very busy weeks, spending lots of time with people and working hard at her job and in the house. When her creative time rolled around, she didn’t want to play piano. She found herself thinking, “What’s it going to do for me? What’s the pay-off?” She toyed with the idea of giving up her personal practice sessions altogether. Maybe she’d feel better if she spent that time crossing things off her to-do list.
I picked up on what Erica said about a pay-off, and asked what she wanted to get from her music. She returned to her words from months before: making music was an interesting activity that gave her the intangible experience of beauty.
I suggested that her experience of making music had a delicacy to it, like the flavour of a fine wine that needed to be savoured. “Right,” said Erica, “And playing when I feel tired and pressured is like chugging Chardonnay in the subway! No wonder I don’t want to do it.”
Together we explored ways to make more space in her life: dropping tasks off her to-do list and identifying how much social time is too much. Erica is excited about clearing room for the subtle and transformative effects of her creative time.
If you’re struggling to find time and energy for creativity, why not start by asking, “What’s in it for me?” Then break out the corkscrew and treat yourself!