Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Writing in Chaos

The other day I read an article about certainty by Sarah Wilson (Sunday Age). She'd been inspired by a book called Uncertainty by Jonathan Fields, and said: "I became aware of how often my anxiety around uncertainty prevents me from creating freely..." Which caught my interest - isn't it uncertainty and doubt that often causes writer's block? Or at least stops us from facing up to the blank page?

In her article she also talked about how she'd discovered many creative people lead "ritualised" lives - eating the same things, getting up at the same time, following the same routines - because that steadiness, that certainty in their everyday lives meant that the uncertainty that comes with creating is much easier to face. This got me thinking about how often I hear people say they haven't been able to write because they've been too busy or life has been too hectic.

What is "too busy" really? Is it that every hour of your day is so totally filled with obligations and chores and duties and work that you don't have time to write? Or is it, as Wilson and Fields suggest, that the chaos of being busy and disorganised and always rushing creates so much uncertainty (or stress or angst or whatever you want to call it) that mentally you cannot find a place where writing will happen?

There's a cliche that if you want to get something done, ask a busy person. What lies beneath this is simply that a busy person who gets a lot done is simply very organised because they have to be. It's logical. Also a busy, organised person is often more able to say No because they are aware of whether they really do have the time and energy or not. Many of us don't say No because of guilt, but also because we often don't understand where our time goes and can't come up with a way of saying No and meaning it!

I like the idea of creativity coming from uncertainty - I feel it every time I sit down to write, and it's a relief to know it's normal. But I also like the idea that ordering the rest of my life with lists and prioritising and a visual diary is what allows me to create more, and create with less anxiety. I know that since I began my MFA studies this year, I have never worked harder or more consistently! But in a weird way, I've been less stressed because I've stuck with my priority job lists, and it's kept me off emails and time-wasting stuff. The one thing that has been stressful was maybe something I should have said No to, but I've learnt from that as well.
So, where do certainty and uncertainty sit in your creative life?


Kaye Baillie said...

Your post is so timely for me. The other day Aleesah Darlison said she writes all day after dropping off her 3 young children to school etc. I thought, if she can do it, then surely I can. So today I got up 45 minutes earlier. I got jobs done before school that I would normally do after I get back from school drop-off. I ignored the house when I walked back inside. I keep saying to myself as house jobs look at me, they will wait until after school pick-up. My plan is to stick to 9-3 for writing. I'm feeling good about it already. Weekends will be kept for cleaning, lawn mowing etc. This is my new plan. Now, back to creating.

Sherryl said...

Kaye, isn't it awful when you realise you did housework before writing? Your plan sounds like a good one!

Anonymous said...

Fantastic post! It's amazing how a simple thing like a priority list can make you feel less stressed and able to focus on your writing.

Sherryl said...

I agree! It really does help.