I have a question for you:
Does having a routine kill your creativity?
Bristish novelist Scarlett Thomas thinks it does, or at least she says so in one of her books, Popco. I saw the quote while looking up creativity quotes and it made me stop and think.
Three posts ago, I wrote a poem using random words from people on my Facebook friends list. At the time I remember looking at the words and immediately feeling confined. How was I going to write a poem using the words they’d given me? What form was I supposed to use? How could I make all of these different words relate and flow with each other?
Now, me being me, I don’t mentally like being restricted. Yet, I did this to myself. I sent out the request to my friends. I was the one holding the leash that I had willingly attached to my own body. (Figuratively, of course.) And there I was gnashing at the walls of the box trying to find a way out of it. It’s human nature not to like to be confined, isn’t it? We don’t enjoy being told what not to do, that we must do things, and most of us try to fight being so restricted. But as any parent of more than one child will tell you, restrictions are necessary. So, I kept myself in my chair instead of getting up to investigate whatever shiny distraction I could find. Eventually, a pretty decent poem wrote itself out of my pen and brain.
If you pull up the Google home page and type in “writers on creativity and routines”, you will pull up a long list of articles on how routines are necessary for exercising your creative mind. Setting a schedule (and following it) for writing every day isn’t just a suggestion but a rule. At least according to almost every writer ever.
Still, one of the most prominent comments I get from many people is that I shouldn’t force myself to write but wait for inspiration. Well, I can tell you, this doesn’t actually always work well. Not for me. I don’t really have a set time every day that I write but I still try to write every day. I don’t always produce anything substantial. Sometimes all I get might be a grocery list. But I still write it down. What I’ve discovered is that when I do set myself a schedule and make it a routine, ideas come faster, easier. When I get off this schedule, I lose ideas and focus, and my creativity suffers because of it. Which is why I forced myself to use those random words to write a poem.
Your physical body requires exercise to keep it strong and healthy. Your brain needs to be fit as well. That means using writing prompts and challenges to exercise your creative spark. You also need to be doing it every day or at least a set time every week.
What do you think? Does your creativity flow better with a routine, or are you best at waiting for inspiration?