I’ve seen the question posed by the title of this blog post a number of times over the past few weeks.
It’s a good question because, if you’re anything like me, current events and the latest outrages tend to hit you pretty hard, leaving you drained and tired and that’s not the best footing to start off on any creative endeavor.
For the professional writer, the quick answer is:
“You just do, because it’s your job.”
This has the advantage of being absolutely correct. If you’re making a living with your art, whatever it is, if you don’t produce, you don’t get to do things like pay the bills…
Pretty compelling reasons to get your butt in the chair and get stuff done.
“Just do it” doesn’t, really, answer the underlying question. Whomever is asking “How do you keep going?” is probably very aware of the consequences of not producing their art if they’re doing it professionally. I suspect that, more often, it’s the people that ~Aren’t~ creating professionally that are asking the question. They want to create, but at the end of the day, they’re so worn down that they don’t have it in them to do it.
They’re asking for help.
So here’s what works for me. Maybe, by sharing this, it – or part of it – will help someone struggling out there.
Step away from it. Put some distance between you and the raging tire fire that social media has predominantly become. Sure, you want to stay current, but there isn’t any way that you can stay on top of it all, so don’t even try. If you ~Have~ to check in, don’t do it first thing in the morning.
Remind yourself of why you create your art. Remind yourself of how it makes you feel. What you want to accomplish. Once you’ve got that, arrange your schedule so that you’re creating your art before you do anything else.* This isn’t as easy as it sounds. I get up pretty early in the morning so that I can get my writing done, first thing. And, if you know me at all, you know that, left to my own devices, I really burn the midnight oil.
If that’s not doable for you, carve out time where you can do what you do, regularly. If you’ve done the first thing and put some distance between you and what’s going on, getting back into the groove should become easier.
I’d like you to take a moment to watch this video:
Yes, at it’s core, it’s an ad for headphones. If that’s all you got out it, it probably won’t do you any good to keep reading. Just so that your time here won’t be completely wasted, here’s a picture of the World’s longest scarf:
I watch this video on a pretty regular basis and I wanted to share it with you for a few reasons.
First, I ~Love~ the Haka. Might be that it you’ll find it as moving as I do. It speaks to me on a level that I can’t articulate.
Second, I’ve adopted the concept of “Start Again.” You do what you can for as long as you can, and then you stop for the day. The next day, you pick up right where you left off and you Start Again. That’s progress. Momentum. And if you realize that you’re making progress, it’s easier to keep going, despite everything else that’s happening around you.
Third, going back to the Haka, the name of the Haka is “We Belong here.”** Ultimately, the root of what the Haka is about is your “Belonging Place.” In the context of the video, this place is a physical location. I think that your art – whatever it is that you do – is also a Belonging Place.
You’ve heard me refer to it as other things. Slipping into “The Zone” is one of my favorites. Wherever it is that you go to do that one thing that calls to you, be it a track, a studio, a theater, or your imagination, you go to your Belonging Place.
And when you’re in your Belonging Place, there is no room for the things of the world that would drain you and keep you from creating.
Hell, things like Time have to work to squeeze in. I listen to music when I write. I’ve got Blind Guardian‘s entire catalog and I set it to loop. When I am in my Belonging Place, the music registers, but it’s completely in the background. I don’t even hear the words.
The more often you go to your Belonging Place, the easier it is for you to get there. In your Belonging Place, it’s just you and your art.
That’s how I keep going. Looking back at the last 800 words, you could say that I’ve, basically, said “Just do it”, but I don’t think so.
“Just do it” gives you the “What”. It doesn’t give you the “Why” of what you’re doing and, without that, it becomes mechanical, cold, and that won’t get you anywhere.
So take care of yourself. Limit your exposure to things that will wear you down. Remind yourself of why you do what you do. Tell yourself that you ~are~ making progress. And go to your Belonging Place, that one place where you do what only you can do.
You can keep going.
Time: 11:59 Am-ish
Music: Nightwish – Elan
*After coffee, that is. You’re not a machine for god’s sakes.
**I’m not going to try and spell it in Maori.