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June: Commit

“There's no need to imagine that you're a wondrous beauty,
because that's what you are.”

― Tove Jansson, Moominsummer Madness

Hello friends,

Welcome to the month of the summer solstice. In my neck of the woods, the sun now sets after 9pm and will continue to do so until mid-July. My morning swims have transitioned into sunset dips, the first two snap peas have popped up in my planter box, and there are even a few green strawberries waiting for just a handful more days of warmth to get some color. 

Creatively, June always feels like a beginning. The doldrums of winter have passed, and the transition through spring feels complete. On the precipice of summer, there’s the promise of what’s to come. There’s a renewed sense of energy, and all of those ideas that were percolating finally feel like they are getting some breathing room.

I’m ready to hit go, and then somehow, there’s still a sense of stalling. A sense of wanting to move forward and not knowing how. There’s also the additional sense of impending guilt that comes with all of that: what if I don’t DO ANYTHING with this time? There is pressure at any beginning, and I thought we would dive into that sentiment a bit more today. 


Over the past month I have been getting back into running, after my friend Julie recommended a “couch to 5k” app. After a year of not running, I decided that this was a good way to go about things and not overdo it. Running has always been an outlet, a sport I’ve had an on again, off again relationship with since I started running track in middle school. Even in my “I hate running” moments, I always come back to it. So a basic “work your way up to a 5k” it was, and every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for the last five weeks I have gone on a run, with no expectation besides that I am training my body to run again. It has been humbling to start anew on something, to begin again and have to put aside any previous accomplishments, times, or mileage that I may have done in the past. Blank slate, but hopefully with some muscle memory. 

The ritual of it all has become a source of energy, and I have found myself looking forward to my running days, and appreciating the small transitions and improvements as I work my way back into a running practice. While the name of the app would have you thinking otherwise, I’m not working towards a specific time or mileage goal. In fact, the process of running is the goal, and I think that is what is driving the enjoyment of the whole thing. 

I wrote about that concept in terms of creativity for a piece that was published this week on the Big Cartel blog, noting that committing to our creative practice isn’t a process that has a goal or an endpoint.

Our creative process is ongoing, but even if something is ongoing, we have to continually commit to it. 

Recently in my weekly creativity workshop, I had us do a timed free-write as a warm up. I gave everyone the following prompt: what is one thing you want to be doing creatively but that you haven’t taken time for?

I asked that, because I already knew what my own answer was and I wanted to explore what perhaps my subconscious knew as to why I wasn’t taking the time for it. How many things do we know that we want to do but we continually put them off? Or alternatively, we find other ways to occupy us instead of actually committing to the Thing. We take classes, we read books, we search for the “key” to get us going, circling around the Thing instead of committing to doing the Thing. 

Deep down, I think we all know the answer. We know what drive us creatively, even if we’re not entirely sure of the structure of the story, or the composition of the painting. The trick is then putting that creative process in motion, working up to running our “creative miles.” 



In yet another example of “listen to your friends,” my friend Kerri Anne alerted me to the 1000 Words of Summer writing campaign, which involves 1000 words every day for two weeks, and asked if I wanted to do it along with her (always good to have someone to be accountable to). Writing is constantly on my list of things that I want to devote more time to, so this was the moment. I have tried to go into it with low expectations of myself (no goal, besides the number words every day) and simply get back into a ritual of writing. That’s much easier said than done, and I have found myself showing up every day unsure of what words to put on the page, afraid that if they’re not focused or leading somewhere they’re not worth doing. 

Just to illustrate how bad this has gotten, on one of the days this was my starting sentence: “What is there to write? Everything and nothing.” I must have been in a melodramatic mood, but I guess that the positive takeaway from this very ridiculous statement is that if that’s the starting point, things can only get better from here. If you have been reading Creative Fuel long enough, you know exactly what my answer to myself would be: commit to the process, navigate, let go of expectations, just start, and see where things lead.

I share this experience as a reminder that even for those of us who have built a career out of art and creativity, there is no special moment that you get to where these components of creativity are all of a sudden easy to implement. We have to actively work at these things, because we are always struggling against our inner voices, our inner critics. We are always working against a culture that tells us product is more important than process. 


I think that endeavors like 1000 Words of Summer are good because they get us to reconnect with our process. It’s a challenge that’s short enough to commit to, but long enough to create some change, build up some stamina, maybe even discover something new along the way. Not all of us do well with daily creative practice commitments (I don’t!) but even then, a short dose of a few of them can be a good thing. The more we commit, the more we can do. As my friend Brendan puts it in terms of running, “put in the miles so you can put in the miles.”

We invest in the creative process, because it allows us to invest in the creative process. 

For this month, as we transition into summer, as things warm up, as your schedule gets a little busier than it probably has been in over a year, and I want you to figure out what it is that you want to be doing creatively but haven’t taken the time for, and I want you to commit to that. 

Dig into the "why." What is it that's stopping you from doing what you want to be doing? That's the obstacle you'll need to work around. Then, commit.

Commit to an idea, a question, commit to staying curious. Commit in whatever way feels honest to your creative process. Commit so that you can work up your creative stamina. Commit so that you can enjoy the process. Commit so that you can feel confident trying something new. 


Your commitment doesn’t need to be for the rest of eternity, but give yourself a window that you can show up for. Write, draw, paint, sculpt, think, wander, play. 

Lace up your creative running shoes, see where you go. 

-Anna
 

If you need daily prompts, here's a list for this month.
SHOP UPDATE
 
Some new prints and cards in the shop, including my very favorite maop of the Isles of Coffee Consumption!

Use the code "creativefuel" for free shipping on any order. 



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