Any writer worth a damn knows discipline lies at the core of a solid, fulfilling writing life. I learned this one the hard way.
In college, we had a guest artist teach a few classes in my junior year. It was nice for a theater department in the middle of nowhere to bring professionals for us to get to know more about the craft, since it took a while for the trends to make their way to Wyoming. This individual brought an intense east coast attitude; a straightforwardness I wasn’t used to, and I struggled with it throughout his entire class. I was raised in a small town, I didn’t know how to deal with that level of directness. From the get-go, I thought he was out to get me. Don’t get me wrong, his criticisms in acting class were never out of line. This professor was not a villain, but I saw him as one back then. When I was a kid, I thought anyone asking me to challenge myself was asking me to compromise who I was. I misunderstood often, so I didn’t listen when I should have been. As you can guess, I didn’t do very well in his class. I went to see him at his office and long-story short, he asked me what I wanted to do with my writing, which has always been my primary creative focus. He wanted to know the end goal I had in mind. I told him I wanted to write movies. That’s when he said “I don’t think that’s going to work out for you. Movies and TV, with all their deadlines, that’s not what you’re cut out for. You need time, you need to keep writing plays.”
I didn’t know how to deal with that honesty, so I took it as an attack. Clenching my teeth I left his office and bitched for hours in my head. How dare he pigeonhole me? How dare he know what I can and can’t do? Fuck that guy. I got so offended I forgot to listen to what he was telling me: All those hours in class for an entire semester, and I never showed him what I could do. He could see I was a talented guy. In class he would compliment my performances and my directing instincts, but I was always unprepared, half-assing my assignments, jumping from one distraction to the next. In that office, he wasn’t limiting my prospects or pigeonholing me: He was daring me to do better. To take it to the next level. He saw talent without discipline.
I have never developed my discipline because I relied so heavily on my talent that I didn’t develop the other half of the equation. In the end, it’s hard to be incomplete.
I am playing catch-up. And it’s a beautiful thing.
It was character that got us out of bed, commitment that moved us into action, and discipline that enabled us to follow through.
Status report. Health stuff. And what happens after you prioritize.
After several weeks of bullet journaling, I am seeing some changes for the better. But here’s the question: Can I use my ten-minute breaks to get my creative fill for the day? I’ve been working on that this week! Also, here’s the dilemma: Is it possible to be rewarded by the short term if the long term is lacking? Can a short term strategy help consolidate and focus your creativity toward the things that matter?
If you’re a creative with a dayjob, come see if this can work for you!
A breakdown of my recent productivity attempts as a creative with a day job.
The road to self care and self control is paved with revamping and paving new roads. Yes, that sounded worse in my head. Over the last month or so, the experiment of bullet journaling has been a pretty triumphant and challenging one, but I’m getting some shit done!
Recently, I settled on a format for my quasi bullet journaling experience. While the Ryder Carroll method is extremely specific about intent and productivity, the more I learn of its methodology and idiosyncrasies, the more I realize I am prioritizing a mere planning method rather than a fuller journal for accountability. As I keep learning, I’m sure I will adopt some more of the Ryder Carroll concepts, but for the time being, as I seek survival methods to not drown in tasks and responsibility, I’m choosing to do something that works for me and my needs, whether it follows official bullet journal doctrine or not. Therefore, I’ve settled on a temporary layout for a weekly spread that has been guiding me pretty well throughout the last month or so.
Taking into account what is important to me and what I need to keep track of, I feel this has been a decent start into my journey of organization and commitment to personal betterment. This is what made sense to me and how I structured it:
Leftovers: A little space for all the shit I forgot to do or couldn’t get to the week before.
Monthly Outlook: To know what day of the week is what number and all that because I never know anymore…
Weekly Outlook: Provided enough room for the events, appointments and tasks in my life. I also left some room in the margins because I’m regularly having to measure my blood pressure now because thanks genetics and stupid horrible life choices in my 20s. (mostly sitting too much, nothing big).
Habits: Designated a space for habit tracking for the most important areas of my life and where I need more discipline:
OUTPUT (SPECIFICALLY CREATIVE OUTPUT & COMMUNITY EFFORTS)
Notes Section: A section for practical daily notes and memos. (This is where I hit a stumbling block. I need more space for the creative notes, so I am currently wielding another notebook everywhere I go. I shed the agenda already, so hopefully in the next few weeks, I will be able to consolidate all my work / life / creative road maps into one well designed and customized journal for me!) For now, this notes section is just for real world, adulting stuff and the unexpected chore/task/expense/deadline.
Assessment: Considering how much happens in a week, I think it’s prudent to look back on what works and what can be improved upon. While some aspects of this may lean more toward the actual bullet journal philosophy, I don’t need much to know what went wrong and what I need to do better, so I made just a little spot for it at the bottom and labeled it as I pleased: VICTORIES & NEEDS WORK. Then do better next week. Easy enough.
What I am surely missing is the big picture stuff I have coming up on the horizon. Long term events and important dates, as well as personal, career, and family goals. This is why a monthly or long term spread is necessary for me as well. I started one for December but it just looked too lackluster, much like a clunky calendar. I’ll revisit this when I have time, but for the time being, the weekly spread has been the most successful part of it all.
It’s been such a blast diving into this world that I feel I have found something I truly love, and that is the process of documenting and arranging information on a page. It calms me down and puts me in a state of hope. It’s all about seeing yourself doing something different, fighting stasis, and seeking a new way to better yourself. I’m not a completely new person and I don’t think I will ever be, but I am definitely feeling more in control of my life and where I want to take it. I’m very much committed to start designing more of these layouts down the road and making them available for anyone who may want to balance work / life / creativity. It’s also been so inspiring to browse and analyze the various ways people cleverly build and shape their chore lists, worries, and hopes into one place on paper. It says so much about their priorities and life story. It’s fascinating!
How do you keep your shit together? Asking for a friend.
I’ve been working on a dance project in collaboration with Wyoming Dance Arts based on this creative prompt of mine:
I worked with three of the WDA dancers and we created a piece based on the restrictions of the space. We spoke a lot about theme and how they could internalize it so we could produce some site-specific choreography. It was a very fruitful, impromptu shoot and I’m still going on the high of that interaction. It’s the best kind of collaboration because the dancers really owned their performances and committed to the idea behind the video. I appreciate their creative trust tremendously.
I had to put this on the back-burner due to the Oyster Ridge Music Festival Deadlines I had to follow, but every chance I got this fall, I worked away at a rough cut for the first video. Oh I forgot to mention, this project will be designed to be edited a handful of ways in order to produce three main pieces and several little snippets for social media. I want to see how much of it sticks and what doesn’t, so by the end of the year, I hope to have most of it wrapped up. So much for free time!
So once I had a reasonable cut, I sent it over to one of our collaborators and she not only shared some outstanding feedback, but reminded me of this very important lesson: Don’t be afraid to reach out.
I sat with my rough draft for about a month because I didn’t know what to do with it. The editing brain went stale and I couldn’t see what needed to happen next. Yes, it was a reasonable draft, but upon getting a fresh set of eyes to look at it, I was able to stand back and observe the piece for what it really was. Because of that, I went home and re-edited the first piece all over again. And it is a much better cut now: Leaner, yet patient and specific.
I would have kept the old cut and chiseled away at shit had I not taken it upon myself to ask for help when my creativity needed it the most. Don’t hesitate to reach out and communicate, and I’ll try to do the same.
Every Sunday, I will define my weekly goals into achievable directives.
Do. Make. Execute. Even if it’s shit, just get in the rhythm of producing instead of pondering.
I’ll talk about the self-care sometime soon, but in terms of creativity and community outreach, there’s a lot you can do in ten minutes. This, I am certain of! The problem is I daydream too much. I tend to posit and keep it all in my head. I must get the word out, I must think out loud, in order to find what will work for me. I hope laying this process out in the open will help you stray readers out there who may be struggling to juggle life, work, and creativity like me. I’m noticing a sea change: Since I’ve been bullet journaling, I’ve been able to take a look at my days and notice how much time I waste during my weekdays. The usual excuse is that I’m too tired from work, or some unforeseen errand came up and now the day is ruined and all is futile because we creative folks are dramatic. Yes, this has been my whiny state of mind for a while now. The hard truth is that all of that time does not go into work or quality time with family either: It ends up washed down the drain on Reddit, reading someone else’s opinions and journeys. There’s a fine balance to be had, and honestly, I am doing awful at it. It’s unacceptable. So in the weeks and months of recent introspection, I forced myself to see what my days actually look like: Where is all this time going? So here I have another experimental plan of attack to attempt in the coming weeks: Use ten minutes on your break to communicate your passion for the arts, reach out to collaborators, and advocate for your creative process every day of the week.
10 Minute Writing Sprint (Poem, Flash Fiction, Monologue, Notes for that BIG Novel, etc.)
Share a new Creative Prompt on IG
Write a Blog Post (Noteworthy Links from the web, creative status report, posts like this one!)
Record the Creative Drive Podcast (~15 mins at lunchtime but still counts).
Give shoutouts to artists you care about on your social media platforms.
So much to do. If we look closely, there’s enough time, even for a working class creative. Let’s see how this pans out.