Are You Draining Your Creative Energy?
I like to listen to books on CD during my long commute to work and one of the best things I’ve discovered about audio books are the occasional unexpected interviews at the end of narration. Some of my favorite audio books belong to Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series and a few weeks ago I was pleasantly surprised by an interview with the author at the end of High Five.
I had never heard much about Ms. Evanovich’s writing process, so her answers to questions about her characters and the development of the series were especially interesting. (If you can find it at your library, I’d highly recommend checking out High Five, even if all you do is listen to the interview.)
At one point in the interview, Ms. Evanovich said something that really resonated with me. While she loves to make her own meals, Ms. Evanovich no longer cooks. Given her lucrative success with the Stephanie Plum series, Ms. Evanovich has hired a cook to make meals for her and her family. Her reasoning? She felt that for her, cooking was a creative act, and in cooking she found she drained creative energy that she could be using to write books.
Initially this struck me as odd. If you love something and find creative pleasure in it, why would you want to give it up? Isn’t there plenty of time for ALL of our creative pursuits? I could see hiring a housekeeper, a gardener, an accountant, people to do tasks I really dislike, but give up cooking, scrapbooking, and other creative activites that I enjoy? I couldn’t imagine it.
It didn’t take long for me to realize she might be on to something, though. As I went through my own routines, I found myself doling out my creative energy to some of my favorite activities, and having little left over for others. Spending an hour or more creating a meal from fresh ingredients, getting into my creative zone in the kitchen, produced a sense of accomplishment and a delicious dinner. It also left me creatively exhausted, so much so that I skipped the writing I had planned to do once I was finished eating.
Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes taking time out for creative projects other than writing seems to energize me and gets the words flowing. But there have been plenty of times when I used creative outlets like cooking and photography to act as substitutes or distractions from writing projects. This got me wondering what other activities might be sapping me of my creative energy. The question is: does creative distraction help or hurt my writing in the long run? What have I been doing (and enjoying) that might be keeping me from writing all those stories in my head? Is blogging interfering with my writing success? What about making cards or scrapbook pages? Do my forays into photography mess with my writing mojo?
I plan to pay closer attention to where my creative energy is going so that I can make more room in my life for my writing, but I know it won’t be easy. I’m hoping I can strike a balance between getting the writing done and enjoying the those non-writing creative activities, too.
What creative pursuits do you enjoy? Do you think they might be draining creative energy that you could be applying to your writing goals instead? Or are they energizing, giving you inspiration and motivation to finish that writing project you’re working on?