There is a moment when we are each ready to create. For me, that moment presents itself like a toddler, full of Need and Now and Let Me Goooooooo. If I’m ready to write, perform, or in any other way create something, I want it right that second. I’m an adult human who works in collaboration with others so I’ve gotten decent at sitting quietly at times until everyone is ready to create, but it’s not always easy, and sometimes I request what I need: the space to make. This came up in a collaboration a few months ago. My collaborator and I had been talking about the work for a few weeks but hadn’t generated any material yet. The rehearsal we were in was to be our first generative rehearsal day. We had a general plan for the day, which was that we were working on the same piece but not the same scene that day. We set a timer for a mutually agreed upon time period in which we would work quietly before sharing what we came up with. My collaborator had the desire to take some time to plan what we were going to do with our parallel playtime. I, on the other hand, felt a bodily revulsion at that moment to talking. I knew that I would know everything I needed to know about what I was working on the moment I put my fingers to the keyboard. I smiled, I nodded, and then I told my collaborator that the best way for me to work right now was to not overthink the process. My collaborator nodded and we got to work.
We both created interesting and flawed work that day. For me, flawed as the work was, there was heat in what I worked on. It was the opposite of pulling teeth- I was desperate to create something new that day. I don’t always feel that way when I make something new. Sometimes I whine my way into the work. Sometimes I trick myself into working by journaling for 5 minutes about why I actually love the thing I have to do. Sometimes I fail to do the work that day. But sometimes the fates align and work is a g o d d a m e d j o y.
This relates back to my post a little while back on procrastination. There is something powerful about building tension in my own desire to work; stifling and constraining the time in which I can work on something until a moment I feel or manufacture urgency to create. I have a complicated relationship with urgency, in general, because wow are there times when it doesn’t serve. There are times when urgency makes me sloppy and stressed out, but there are also times when it feeds my soul and unlocks my creativity. Sometimes that urgency comes from an external deadline, and sometimes, like the situation I described above, it comes from an inner fire.
At the moment I felt that urgency to create and extricated myself from my collaborator in order to tap into that energy, I had no idea what I was going to write or make or do. I had no “idea” in my mind, I just knew that the moment was right to begin anyway. The “idea” I was playing with emerged by way of writing, as it so often does for me. I used this data, this knowledge that being a coiled spring is a useful state for me to create work from at times, I have started thinking about ways to cultivate it. I have started telling myself no- this is not the moment to create- and checking in with myself on how it felt to hear “no.” Sometimes I am relieved. In those moments, I walk away from the work for a while. Other times I feel angry or sad to be denied a moment to work. I walk away for a shorter period of time, allowing that fire to build and forcing myself not to think about the work. When I do return to it, I often find that my subconscious has been hard at work despite my remonstrations and constraints. In denying my conscious mind the chance to work, my subconscious sneakily takes over, and that can be very good for the work.
Tuck this advice in your pocket for the right moment: When you have time set aside to work, tell yourself “no” sometimes. Check in with how it makes you feel to know that you are no longer allowed to work on what you said you work on, and that you have to walk away, be it for an hour, a week, or a month. Say no, keep saying no, and don’t say yes until you’re close to having a tiny tantrum because the urge to work is so great.