We’re cleaning out our attic, a momentous task brought about by an upcoming project to turn our attic space into a guest room. In going through the junk (much of which was carried promptly to the dumpster), I came across a wig that I’d bought for a disco-themed New Year's party a few years ago. It sat sidelined in the dusty attic ever since, its enthusiastic blonde spray tightly crammed into a clear vinyl bag. It looked trapped and frantic, like one of those YouTube videos of a cat stuck inside a glass jar.
I brought it down and left it conspicuously by my bedside, not knowing what I was going to do with it, but knowing I didn’t want to toss it out with the rest of the junk. It sat propped against my nightstand for double-digit days. One recent morning, Hobbs rolled out of bed and shuffled to the bathroom. “That damn wig was in my dream last night,” he mumbled, casting a puffy-eyed squint my direction. “Weird,” I grunted back. The wig remained.
In my meditation practice, Creativity is one of the nine members of my roundtable. An attractive, emerald-colored creature with glossy skin and bright blue eyes, she sits between Anxiety and Darkness, often eager to share her commentary, ideas, and prescription for what ails. Lately, she’s been agitated and listless, rolling her eyes at my prompts for input and feeling patronized when I try to engage her. She urges me to take more time for personal writing projects or a photography series, to which I calmly and rationally respond that client work is more important. When she suggests I wake up earlier or rearrange my work schedule to squeeze in these activities, I snap back at her. “I just don’t have the time,” I say with frustration, much like an exasperated parent says to a desperate and disappointed child. She recoils, feeling scolded and cast aside.
The shameful thing is, “I don’t have the time” is a lie. I have plenty of time. I have the time to read the paper. I have the time to watch TV at night. I have the time to meet a friend for brunch. I have the time to mindlessly cruise Instagram. I proudly proclaim that “time is my most precious commodity” and my days are well-orchestrated, seamless, and streamlined evidence of that—but I won't make the time to indulge Creativity. In my idle moments, I find my mind hungry for information to gnaw, digest, and absorb—podcasts, print articles, documentaries, stand-up comedy—but I don’t put forth the energy to create something of my own to explore, tinker with, and enjoy.
Yesterday, I relented. I gave Creativity an hour. One hour. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, but I knew I wanted to use the wig. I was eager to use my camera and I was working with strange midday light that only trickles into our east-and-west facing windows. Allowing myself a quiet, free-form patience I so rarely indulge in, I futzed for a while until the ideas began to congeal.
What I made seemed funny and nonsensical at the time—photos of me doing everyday tasks while wearing a ridiculous wig—but the message appeared crystal-clear to me as I was editing the shots. These photos personify my Creativity: at-the-ready with her imaginative, bizarre, maniacal energy, but caged and resigned by my choice of free-time activities. In these photos, you'll find her reading a magazine at the table, perched on the couch with a newspaper, and watching TV at the end of a long day.
Creativity is bored out of her fucking mind.
It's true, I work a lot. And I get it. No one is on their deathbed saying, "If only I had worked more! If only I had spent less time doing the things that really set my soul on fire!" If only it were that simple—if only I had creativity and passion gushing out of my pores like a faucet of rainbow-colored innovation—but it's not, and I don't. I, like the rest of the creative collective, spend the vast majority of my days and my time on the grind. I write email copy. I write newspaper articles. I edit blog posts.
And I love it. I do!
...You can sense the but coming.
But it's what I choose to do with my free time that gets me in trouble. I ignore Creativity's tugs at my shirtsleeve and her sheepish, well-meaning encouragement. Instead, I sit, I read, I watch, I do crossword puzzles, I check out of thinking entirely—and rarely do I make.
Creativity, I'm sorry. You deserve more.
I'll get better at this, I really will. Even today, I spent the majority of my unscheduled time plugging away at this rambling stream of consciousness. See, that's progress, isn't it?
A poster above my desk says, "CREATIVITY IS NOT A HOBBY," and I agree wholeheartedly. Creativity is also not something that flows from a bottomless source—but neither is the time we're allowed on this earth. What's a human to do?
So now, I ask you, internet universe: What do you do to peel yourself out of a creative rut?