One of the most salient bits of advice that often gets passed around is to “do what you love.” In general, that advice is solid unless what you love is sleeping or some other activity incapable of providing you with fulfillment and a means to make a living, but even if you’re doing the thing you love most, there will be inevitable ups and downs just like everything else in life. This is especially true for creative endeavors.
I always find it interesting to read or listen to interviews with other authors to hear about their creative process. The paths to a good book are as varied as the people who write them, but one common thread among all of these people is the sense that there’s some magic in the process, a black box of sorts. This box emits great ideas most of the time, but sometimes, it doesn’t. The creative storm that pushes a work forward comes and goes like the ebb and flow of the tides, and no one really knows how or why.
I’m not prone to believing in fairies and such, but my inability to describe or control the creative process in a logical paradigm leaves me little choice but to put it in the context similar to moods, an undulating wave of varying amplitude and frequency that pulses through the universe in a non-repeating pattern. I never know when a creative storm will form and dash out a hailstorm of ideas. I do know that ideas often strike at the most inopportune times like in the middle of a run, on an airplane, or in the shower – moments where I may not have the means to capture them quickly.
In the middle of all of this is my usual routine, which helps to some degree corral the forces at work here. I’m at my best in the morning, so I get up before everyone else to write. It helps if I’m comfortable, so I have my favorite (and most comfortable) chair at the ready in my office. Coffee helps, too. All of these environmental elements combine forces to coax the creative fairies out of hiding (hopefully). On some mornings, my fingers can barely keep up on the keyboard as words flow like music from my fingertips. On other mornings, the blinking cursor mocks me as if the well were dry, but I know it will rain another day. Despite this seemingly feast or famine nature, I love to write.
Sometimes I get asked if I plan to make writing my full-time gig. My answer invariably is no, which seems contradictory to the “do what you love” advice. I do love to write, but I don’t want to add the pressure of having to make a living to the mystical blend that is the creative process. I think it would ruin it for me. I can walk away from writing for a day or a week and rejuvenate because I know I don’t depend on it to make a living. If it were my day job, I’d feel compelled to push and push until all of the joy were gone from it. I like things the way they are just fine. I’m writing for the joy of it, even when it’s not so joyful. I can wait out the lull in the storm.