Why quitting might be just what your creative spirit needs

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Most of us remember our childhoods, or at least parts of them, with fondness and longing. The days that stretched out before us in summer, with no responsibilities other than brushing our teeth, eating and taking a shower or bath. The biggest decisions that faced us were things like what kind of cereal to have for breakfast, which friend to call first or what color shorts to wear.

Childhood for most of us represented a time of freedom. Perhaps not in the adult sense of the word--we were after all, dependent on someone to take us places, had little say in vacation plans, and so forth--yet we were free to be who we were and to create what we wanted. Whether building blanket forts, exploring the woods, holding impromptu tea parties with our stuffed animals, painting, coloring, reading, baking, or making battle grounds for G.I. Joe soldiers out of Lincoln Logs, no one cared what we were doing.

I love reading blogs and magazine articles about creativity and the creative process. But it makes me sad that many of these articles--maybe up to 90 percent?--focus on prompts, lists, and how to's.

Have you read any titles like this lately?
  • "Create Your Dream Studio Now!"
  • "Find the Perfect Agent for Your Book Today!"
  • "12 Ways to Start Your Creative Engine"
  • "Improve Your Drawing Skills in Just 3 Days!"
  • "4 Steps to Scoring the Gallery Show of Your Dreams" 
It's not that any of these things are bad, or that we shouldn't want to improve our skills and abilities. I certainly do. But I also find myself drawn to these type of articles for the wrong reason. I read along, get inspired, and then ... sputter out. "My drawing will never look like her's." Or, after three days of trying a "9 Days to Creative Success," article, I realize that I cannot keep up with the onslaught of tasks that the author suggests and still have time or energy left over to actually create anything. 

These articles and ideas are all focused on one thing: doing. And as we know doing is easier than being.

Because when we focus on the interior--making time for reflection, embracing being uncomfortable, and being a brave creative--we learn that everything is not struggle and strain. That forcing ourselves to be creative is actually a great unkindness, but taking a single tiny, creative step can make us feel happy and fulfilled.

So, what does all of this have to do with quitting? Quitting, giving your soul some room to breathe, giving yourself some space to think, to plan, to dream ... or just to check out for a while, can be a beautiful gift. It doesn't mean throwing up your hands and stomping off after a bad day or week of trying to make something. Instead, it means listening to that little inner voice. It means honoring its need to rest, to take a break, to quit whatever is on the schedule for the day that is not essential and just be still. To enjoy yourself. Yes, you have the right and should use it liberally.

What could you quit today? What enjoyable activity could you add in its place? A nap? An extra few chapters of a book you love? Time to sketch? Share your ideas in the comments. 

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