Scheduling Creativity

The other day I got in my car after work and called a friend of mine, as I often do on my way home. He moved away a few years ago, but we still talk all the time. It doesn’t matter about what. Life, the universe, and everything.

On this particular day, I mentioned that on an episode of @midnight I had recently watched, Julian McCullough had mentioned Magic: The Gathering, a game we have both played for many years. For some reason, I thought of Mystic Warlords of Ka’a from The Big Bang Theory, which appears to be a reference to several card games, including Magic. I asked my friend if he thought a particular aspect of Warlords seemed like a veiled reference to a common trope in Magic. He said probably not. I told him, in that defiant tone that you’re more likely to use facetiously with friends than with people you’re actually mad at, that I would interpret the allegory however I damn well wanted. He said again that he didn’t think so, but acknowledged that he didn’t pick up on symbolism well. I told him I often didn’t, either.

We discussed the pervasiveness of symbolism in high literature, and how both of us often didn’t notice it, and probably wouldn’t have thought about it if we didn’t have to for English class. And how this is hardly unique to scholastic matters. This is a recurring theme for me. I couldn’t possibly list all the times I have noticed—usually too late, unfortunately—how oblivious I can be. Does everyone else have as much trouble picking up on things? Probably not. I guess some people have trouble seeing what’s in front of them, though.

Today I read this excellent post by Lisa Jakub, in which she talks about scheduling time to write and sticking to it. She has a sticky note on her computer that reads “Write anyway.” A little while later (on a completely unrelated tangent) I ran across the following quote, which I think perfectly echoes what she was saying:

“The muse only shows up when you bait her by putting your ass in the chair.”
—Elissa Schappell

Apparently even good creatives don’t all just have an overflowing font of brilliance spilling out of their brain all the time that they can capture perfectly and transform into beautiful works of art. Most of them probably have to sit down and work, which is when the good stuff comes out. Lisa commented on Facebook, “it’s kind of in the opposite order of what people have romanticized for writers and artists.”

After I read Lisa’s post, I was inspired to try to make time to write, something I just don’t do often enough. I thought about when I could schedule it. Why don’t I make time for creative pursuits? I’ve always liked writing. But I get preoccupied with other things easily, and I rarely make a concerted effort to put my ass in the chair, usually doing so only when I have a stroke of genius. Which, of course, for me, is a slightly ingratiating way of saying I had an idea that might not suck.

I can do this. It’s not so hard. So I started thinking about how I might start scheduling time to write. And I realized one thing I could do was dictate into my phone while I’m in the car. I wrote the first few paragraphs of this post while I was out getting lunch. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it already.

Sometimes you don’t see what’s right in front of you.

I’ll probably continue to miss obvious things. I don’t think that’s likely to change. But maybe I can stick to a creative schedule. We’ll see.

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