University lecturers in creative writing are required to produce creative work as part of their job description – but they often complain that their jobs are so time consuming that they can hardly find time to write.
Anyone who has a busy day job will recognize the same complaint. But universities, unlike many jobs, tend to slow down a bit this time of year. This is the time of year when creative writing lecturers can carve out a little more time for their own creative writing.
But ‘creative’ is not a switch that can be flicked, and often the transition from ‘busy’ to ‘creative’ is not instantaneous. The trouble is that creativity happens in the pauses between thoughts. Pauses are longer and more frequent when we are moving slowly.
When deadlines are taken away we can’t come to a dead stop immediately; we keep running for a while, like the road-runner whose legs carry him beyond the edge of the cliff. There is a tendency to pace, to fret, to make lists, and to worry that we are wasting time. Why aren’t we being creative yet?
The problem is that we are still in our efficient, busy mode. On the wonderful Slow Muse blog recently, Deborah Barlow quotes Rebecca Solnit in Finding Time:
The Four Horsemen of my Apocalypse are called Efficiency, Convenience, Profitability, and Security, and in their names, crimes against poetry, pleasure, sociability, and the very largeness of the world are daily, hourly, constantly carried out.
Ideas tend to arrive in the moments of down time, those in-between moments. To be creative we need to increase the frequency of those in-between moments - moments in which we are not doing anything at all.
These days, we’re running so fast and being so efficient that we tend to fill these in-between times with little jobs. We make lists, surf the net, answer emails, eat. It’s important to allow these dead times to just ‘be’, or at least to fill them with nurturing activities like walking, meditating, listening to music, or reading something inspiring. Or just watching the rain.
Keep a notebook with you to capture the ideas that arise in these quiet times. Ideas tend to proliferate when they are noticed and appreciated. Bit by bit, in the in-between moments, your creativity will surface. And before you know it, you’ll be galloping along on your next creative adventure.
Heather Dyer - children's author and Royal Literary Fund Consultant Fellow
- For enquiries about creative writing workshops for children or adults, or editorial services, go to www.heatherdyer.co.uk
- For enquiries about academic writing workshops, go to: http://rlfconsultants.com/consultants/heather-dyer/