Monday, April 27, 2015

the creative process: rewarding hard work


Shortly after Jason and I got married I ran a really strong half marathon. It seemed that settling into marriage helped my running (oh, the stress of newlywed life). And in doing so, it bolstered my confidence. So I signed up for a full marathon with my mom. We trained. And trained. And trained.

We prepared ourselves to run for four hours without stopping, practiced how to eat and to drink and when to expect bathroom breaks while we continued to run. Often we'd eat light, veggie-filled meals on Friday nights skipping drinks so the morning run would be painless and enjoyable. Come Saturday night it was reward time filled with chips and salsa and table side guacamole, with pizza and beer, with spaghetti and garlic bread dipped in meat sauce.

As we ate, sometimes feeling guilty, we'd remind ourselves of our morning's task and look each other in the eye saying "reward". Yes reward, over and over again. I knew that a great morning run would mean an even greater meal. And the process went well, I finished the marathon and weighed 5 pounds more than the day we started training.

I used to lie to myself about creating. I'd say that it was my treat, my reward, for living, working, running. I thought all creatives felt the same way. I never allowed creativity to be seen as work. I thought it was my reward for doing the rest of life as need be.

THIS IS SO WRONG. 

Creativity requires much of you, so much, in fact, it can feel as though you're running a marathon when you're simply trying to write out 300 words. I didn't understand that creating is taxing, sometimes a very heavy load to bear. Add to that the people who use their creativity for their livelihood and there is rarely a chance to skip out on the artful tasks ahead of you.

SO, IF CREATIVE WORK ISN'T THE REWARD, WHAT IS? 

When I reached 25,000 words in my first draft of the book, I bought myself a pair of sandals. I love them and they make me smile, but I can't afford the money and space to always buy myself a present for pushing forward in my project. So, I set my heart on choosing things that were restorative while keeping open space in my mind and home.

In doing this, I have found there are three ways to reward myself that are restorative (and don't include filling yet another space in my closet):

1. TAKE A NAP.
I love sleep. Really, really, really love sleep. So when I've worked hard and the words are there and I'm just done and proud, I sleep. Sometimes it's just a little 20 minute power nap, but there's something so nice about letting my mind fall into a slumber after working it out. (I guess maybe this is just like our bodies...)

2. A CELEBRATORY COCKTAIL
I mean, what's there to explain here.

3. GO TO THE LIBRARY. 
I know, I talk about the library sort of a lot. But the thing is I didn't realize what a beautiful, restful space it is until just a few months ago. Sometimes I finish up a good hour writing and just want to sit in the presence of more words. The library's that place. Plus it's quiet and requires nothing of me but more quiet and it's just peace.

I also am a huge fan of having some smutty reality TV on your DVR for mind-numbing pleasure, reading through an issue of Real Simple for healthy distraction, and ice cream, always ice cream.

And, how do you reward yourself?

8 comments:

  1. Love that you use the library like that. It can be such a calming place. If I'm being honest with you I'd have to say the cocktail sounds really good too!

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  2. Yesssssss, I love the library! A cocktail in the library would he heaven. :D

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  3. I just love this. I also used to think that creativity was something that you did when the work was done: but now I'm learning that creativity is a way of life.

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  4. I love how similar this is to my own rewards =) After completing my masters, both my positions ended so it is back to the job hunt. Job hunting is so, so tedious and long that I know I need to set up a rewards system like this. The library is a short walk from my house -- love this!

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  5. Ahhh I like this a lot. So much so That I might go write and nap. I normally feel this unnecessary guilt when I give myself time to Create. It's this lame human-pleasing-self-sacrifice thing I've made up to measure my value (so not good). But on thi Europe trip im feeling more welcome and more able and more invited into creativity. And realizing its a gift I must nurture and grow and give. So after I do that, I will reward with a nap, and maybe a cappuccino. Or red wine. Or all.
    Thanks am.

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  6. I LOVE the library! And you're right, sometimes I don't even get a book. I just sit and read (in the floor of course, stroll the shelves with a cup of coffee from the Starbucks machine, or even look at some kid's books :) Something about being in a place dedicated to quiet for just a little bit.

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  7. Fabulous, i love this thinking! And what simple litthe pleasures I almost never allow myself (except for the cocktails but I always feel guilty after)!

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  8. My reward through getting through a tough task or a taxing project is ALWAYS reality TV. I just love it!

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