Over the past two weeks, I've been reminded of an important facet of the writing process: stress inhibits creativity.
I "discovered" this quite by accident when I went to two conferences in as many weeks. It wasn't the workshops or even the keynote speakers that brought this to my attention, though. It was the drive.
My husband drives nearly an hour one way to work - a commute he tolerates, but does not enjoy. I, on the other hand, can get to nearly every place that's important to me within fifteen minutes. Usually, I think that's a good thing, but after two weeks of commuting to conferences, I'm beginning to wonder.
There's something about a drive that loosens my creativity; alone in the car with multitasking all but impossible, my mind can wander. But apparently, based on recent experience, the more stressful life is at the moment, the longer the drive needs to be in order for my mind to "loosen up" and settle in a creative place.
Driving to the Pennwriters conference two weekends ago, I was focused on my time of arrival, the time of the first workshop and the accuracy of my reservations. I was also the designated driver for my sister, so my time table affected her as well. In other words, I hadn't let go of the daily minutiae, which kept both my body and my mind in a state of tension.
Last weekend, driving back and forth to the PSCA Conference, where I was a daytripper, I was less concerned about these things. I was responsible only for myself, and I felt fewer schedule constraints. I wasn't focused on creativity, and yet it came.
Back in January, inspired by Bruce Van Patter's assembly for our elementary students, I resolved to make space in my life for creativity. Unfortunately, instead of building it a cozy nest, I often try to shoehorn it into a closet-sized space, and then I wonder why it won't come and settle in.
When life is stressful, apparently my muse needs the cozy nest as much as I do. Creativity doesn't do on-demand performances; it's more likely to sneak in quietly and take a seat when the audience is focused on other things. So perhaps I need to focus less intensely, and simply be ready to greet it when it arrives, trusting that it will come.
But the reality of life means that sometimes, I simply have to take advantage of the small spaces, and try to utilize them the best I can, so there will still be times that you'll find me in that closet, butt in chair, hoping the muse will stop in for some chai.
When that doesn't happen, though, I hope I'll remember that sometimes inspiration comes on my timetable, and sometimes, it's up to the muse. And sometimes, I just have to take a drive.