Getting into a rhythm of creativity requires some discipline and habit-forming behaviour. Here’s some encouragements on how I’ve been doing that in recent months.
‘Creativity’ and ‘discipline’ sound like opposites, right? Isn’t creativity a spontaneous thing that just happens when the mood takes you? People who want to be continually creative – not just from time to time – build creative time into their diaries. Writers get up in the morning and write. Composers get up and compose. Whether they feel like it or not. If you do something else for a living, still diarise your creative time to make sure it happens.
‘Ideas people’ are always having ideas. If you’re a songwriter, you’ve probably got a phone full of voice memos. If you’re a writer, you’ll have a journal full of poems, sketches or scenarios. You know that you have the ideas. The challenge is taking the seed of an idea and fleshing it out into a finished project. ‘Discipline’ is an intimidating word – why don’t we just think of it as getting stuff done, and getting it done regularly.
Here are some things that have helped me in the last few months:
Always have a means to capture ideas. I take my phone everywhere, and have written whole choruses walking my dog! If an idea comes at 2am, I make myself get up and head to the bathroom (and sing quietly!). Don’t think you’ll remember that idea, you won't!
Use your downtime well. (Before lockdown) my son was part of a band rehearsing some distance away. There’s nowhere to go when you get there so the two-hour wait in the car is two uninterrupted hours to work on lyrics!
Get off your phone. We all know how easily time can disappear reading news articles or social media posts. Use that time for something more productive! For example: Take one of those ‘killer chorus ideas’ from your phone and give yourself an hour to develop a verse idea to go with it. Or take a theme idea (eg faith, grace) and brainstorm for an hour – concepts, Bible verses, experiences. Just go with the flow, don’t try to vet your ideas as they come. See if some of those ideas begin to group together – perhaps you might have a verse 1 and verse 2 there? But set your alarm – that start and end time helps focus your mind. You’ll be amazed at how much you can get done in the time.
If you have someone you can co-write with, diarise time to meet up, whether in person or by Zoom/Facetime. I’ve been writing with Geraldine Latty and Carey Luce for some months now. They’re in England, I’m in Australia. We generally meet once a fortnight for about an hour or so on Zoom. We chat and pray together, and share ideas that we will then take away and flesh out. Knowing there is another date in the diary means that I know I always need to get something ready!
Sign up for a writing course or something similar where you need to submit pieces of work to a deadline. Signing up for the Getty Music Hymnwriting Collective gave me fresh input on writing and made me get songs finished by a certain date. If it’s tricky to pay for a course, set up some accountability with a fellow writer where you need to submit ideas to each other on a certain date and give each other positive feedback.
Christmas is a great ‘deadline’! Set yourself a task of writing a new song for your church band or choir, or a nativity play, perhaps – October is a good time to aim for. (Start now!)
Here in Sydney, Australia we are in a COVID lockdown. Spending all our time at home means it’s possible to find creative time. In other parts of the world coming out of lockdown, there will be fresh demands on your time that haven’t been there for a while. Now’s the time to make every effort to keep those creative disciplines going! Keep jotting down every idea you have, and make it your goal to see at least some of those ideas become finished projects. Once you start, you’re likely to get on a roll – enjoy it!
© Kate Simmonds 2021