Artists and writers are fed by a constant stream of curiosity. Our imaginations flow freely with ideas and connections, which allows for a rich river of creativity that can infuse our lives with joy. But what happens when this flood of ideas overwhelms us, turning our creative output into a trickle? It’s time to build a creative dam.
A creative dam guides our inspiration into meaningful flow. It eases our efforts, helps us avoid struggle and allows us to be the creators we dream of being.
I’ve been helping writers and artists build structures to guide the flow of their creativity for years, and have a few tips to help you build your own creative dam.
Commit to it. Choose the one project that has the most meaning for you right now. Choose among all of your great ideas the one thing that will give you the most satisfaction when you complete it. Then commit to finishing it.
Structure it. Many successful creatives advocate a regular place or time for writing. This kind of structure can be a great dam for your writing or art making. With structure, you develop a ritual and bypass the need to constantly get re-invigorated. This dam could be as simple as using the same notebook for a project, sipping the same kind of tea, or sitting under the same tree. It may be a consistent writing time and place. Find a structure that works for you.
Choose one. If you’re like me, you tend to bounce around between projects. This can be a workable style, if, and only if, you finish the projects. If you discover that you have several projects in various states of completion, then you need to funnel your energy into one thing at a time. I know, I can see you squirming. But try it. Stick with something until you complete it. See what rewards you reap when you follow through.
Face your fears. You may notice that as you step into the stream of completion, all the fears that lurk around the banks of your writing whisper to you from the current. They are no longer hiding behind the rush of all your great ideas. You can’t avoid them any longer. Get out a piece of paper or your notebook. Do a free write about your fears of writing. Let yourself write for 15 minutes. Then take a deep breath and go back to your writing. You may discover that when you give space for your fears, they dissolve in the powerful flow of your creativity. Do this as many times as you need. When we avoid them, they lurk under the surface and covertly sabotage us.
Be accountable. I have a job helping people stay accountable because we need this kind of support. We know that when we tell people we’ll do something, we are more likely to follow through on it. I wrote Create Your Writer’s Life, my novel and weekly essays because I have accountability. Get writing buddies, join a writing group, hire a coach, whatever way you get support, it works.
Let yourself enjoy it. Life is challenging enough without giving ourselves grief over something that should be enjoyable. Relax into your creative expression. Jettison heaviness and despair. Your creative expression is meant to enrich your life, not be a dead weight anchor slowing you down.
Build your creative dam and ease your creative overflow into satisfying and completed writing projects. If after a month you find yourself still avoiding the writing, you may benefit from coaching.