Tricking Yourself Into Creativity

I am ashamed to admit that it is almost November, and aside from necessary reading for work, I’ve only managed to read three books this year. Me, who used to devour 1000+ page novels over a weekend, have had to limit myself, first since returning to work after having a child (oh, those handful of weeks of maternity leave, I read SO much, propping a book or the Kindle one-handed while nursing my son and holding him while he slept) and even further restricting myself since freelancing. It becomes a choice, after all – do I take this twenty minutes to read or to write my own work? Do I use the time my son is watching a show to try to catch up on housework that’s fallen behind, do I read, or do I just sit and cuddle him for a while? Do I use my precious time that I carve to occasionally soak in the tub to reconnect with myself or to escape in a book? And, this past year, book time has been losing.

But one of the three books I’ve managed to read was Steve Martin’s autobiography Born Standing Up. It’s a few years old now, but it was a relatively quick and fascinating read. This quote has been sticking with me.

I was in a conversation a few years ago with a friend, the painter Eric Fischl. We were comparing psychoanalysis with the making of art. I said, ‘Both require explorations of the subconscious, and in that way they are similar’. He agreed, thought about it, then added, ‘But there is a fundamental difference between the two. In psychoanalysis, you try to retain a discovery; in art, once the thing is made, you let it go’. He was right. I had not looked at or considered my stand-up career until writing this memoir; I had, in fact, abandoned it. Moving on and not looking back, not living in the past, was a way to trick myself into further creativity.

There is something in the phrase “trick myself into further creativity” that rings so true to me. The impetus to delve into the subconscious for inspiration, tapping that to actually do the physical creation itself, and then the risk in sharing that with others often requires some trickery. I often play mind-games on myself to convince myself to do what I should be doing, which (and I think I’ve mentioned this before) is vastly preferable to my playing mind-games on other people. It’s this strange kind of inward dance to shut the inner critic down, at least for a little while.

Even tonight, I didn’t quite know what I wanted to post here, but I told myself I had to post something. And here it is, after midnight, and I’m posting someone else’s quote because I didn’t feel quite up to being vulnerable enough to share any of my works-in-progress or older works. So I talked myself into “something is better than nothing” and am posting this. A little vulnerable is better than no vulnerability, but I still feel like I’m falling short lately on a lot of fronts. I think I’m just tired. But I continue to trick myself and create, and that makes everything worthwhile somehow.


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