The Productive/Creative Balance

November, the month of writing productivity. Being productive was the key this month, and despite not completing NaNoWriMo as I had planned, I have still learned and progressed in many ways. And as I recently heard somewhere: it’s only failure when you give up, until then it is experience.

Getting Productive

As anyone who read my first NaNoWriMo post will know, I struggled with the first week. However, I had resolved to keep on going – a determination that was not manifested in any tangible output.

In the past I would have seen this as an abject personal failure and derided myself for flaking out on another goal. Yet, through my recent, more creative, endeavours it is clear that achieving something on the first attempt is not the path to greatness in terms of the work or personal growth. As I found out in a recent interview: it is the struggle that makes it worth doing.

Not Failure, Experience

Having said this, I have had an incredibly productive month. Maybe I didn’t complete NaNoWriMo, or get written every blog post that I had planned, but then I wrote posts that I hadn’t planned. In fact, I was writing almost every day, just not always on the project that I had intended. I was also still coming up with new ideas; the creativity is still there, I just need a little more perseverance utilising it fully.

It has also helped me reassess my approach to writing. I had always assumed that the best time for me to write was, as they sometimes say with exercise, to get up early and get it done before your body/brain realises what is going on. Well, maybe my brain is too switched on, because it couldn’t be fooled like that. Early morning attempts at writing just resulted in the usual residual guilt of ‘you have other stuff you should be doing…’

Try Something New

If it’s not working then try something else. So my original plan of action was a bust, so what else can I try? Writing in the morning, well, writing fiction at least, hasn’t worked for me, so maybe I need to mix it up a bit. How about writing in the evening? So far I am still in the procrastination stage with this one – oh, the joys of procrastination! But it makes sense. All I need to do is get into the habit of switching the TV off and opening up the laptop to write.

Easier said than done…

Breaking the Habit

I was recently reading about the creative process (a planned blog post book review that hasn’t yet materialised…) and it was pointed out that a key aspect is the role of ritual. That is, creativity is not a burst of creative genius that comes out in sporadic explosions of frenzy, but a protracted act of repetition – sitting down day after day to worship at the altar of the creative process.

Maybe this is where I am going wrong. A friend of mine, during a casual conversation about rituals and social interaction (we all have those, right?), was aghast when I said I didn’t have any personal rituals of my own. My life is chaos. No set routine, no particular order. I’d like to think it’s the mark of a truly creative brain, but then what use is creativity without productivity.

Creative and Productive Balance

The truth is you can be the most creative individual in the world, but no one will know if you cannot convert that creativity into a concrete reality. Whatever form that may take, it does not matter, but while it is in your head, what is the point? And, perhaps more importantly, how can you grow and progress if you don’t bring things into reality and see how they perish or flourish without the protective blanket of your imagination?

The true mark of an artist is to find a balance between the two – the creative spirit and the productive habit. Some aspects of these two come more naturally than others. If nothing else, this month has taught me that maybe one of those things needs a little more nurturing than the other at this moment if I want to progress and get all these things out of my head and into the physical realm.

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