“How ’bout it?” you ask? Well, if you’re at all a regular reader of this blog, you know the answer already. We’re halfway through the month and we’ve got, what, three haiku? Not a stellar example of creativity and best practices.
I understand why on a meta-level: I don’t want to be a poet. Just trying to instill a habit of something when you don’t really feel drawn to it is going to be more difficult, always.
The strange thing about it is how actually simple the act really is; I created the above poem (and the last one) in about five minutes total of scribbling, erasing, and crossing things out. I enjoy wordplay immensely, so the relatively simple challenge of finding a word to evoke meaning (as well as mentioning something about nature) within a prescribed set of syllables is not a difficult task.
So why is this so frakkin’ difficult?
Consult the Wise
I went to the source, of course, Leo Babauta. Strangely enough, I didn’t find any posts on “Why Gray Can’t Get in the Haiku Habit.” In fact, I had a hard time finding any posts on habits failing. I suspect it might have something to do with a positive outlook or something… Regardless, I did find some interesting comments about “the Number One Habit of Highly Creative People.” And there was even an Ah-Ha! moment (not the ’80’s band, more Archimedean) where I saw something I’d not been giving myself.
That was the common factor Leo found in the various responses highly creative people gave him. All of them took time by themselves to let the creative juices flow – for some, it was doing exercise and running, for others it was simply scheduling alone time. But all of them said it was essential to their creative process.
Alone Means Alone
It’s not to say I’ve been a social butterfly – while I have had various friends and dates over the past month or so, there has certainly been a lot of time that I have been alone. I live with three housemates, but on different floors of a very nice and quiet Victorian house. I can go whole days without seeing any of them. Surely I have enough alone time?
Not really. Because I am an active liver of the augmented life (liver as in “one who lives”, not “tastes good with onions”). That is to say that many of my friends who I chat with and talk with throughout the day are hundreds and thousands of miles away. I pay attention to who posts in various forums; I work with clients, most of whom are on the opposite coast. When I’m not working I’m consuming other media – Dan Carlin’s podcasts are a huge favorite, as well as many audio books.
None of that is “alone” time. I’m by myself physically, but mentally I’m sharing space with any number of people, often simultaneously. I believe that to truly cultivate “solitude” – the water that nourishes creativity – “alone” is only the first step.
Instead of saying “I don’t have time” try saying “it’s not a priority,” and see how that feels.
– Laura Vanderkam, Are You As Busy As You Think?, WSJ
There’s another aspect to why I’ve not done the haikus: they’ve not been a priority. I have given priority to many other projects and made great progress on them – even, amusingly enough, helping a friend prioritize and find time to do tasks she’d committed to but was having difficulty completing. While it could be considered admirable that I am putting friends and loved ones “ahead” of my own commitments, it’s also a bit hypocritical.
Felicia Day, adding to the Creative Habits question on Leo’s blog, also mentioned another key component: scheduling. She found that self-imposing a schedule on her time helped the creativity keep flowing:
For some reason being that disciplined creates a sense of control that I wouldn’t have otherwise, as a self-employed person, and I get the most out of the scheduled hours that I have for writing.
I would recommend looking at her blog, but frankly there’s so much awesome there that it will completely sap your time and remove any hope of productivity you may have. And that’s not the point of this blog, right?
In the End, Just Do It.
Coming back to what I said in the beginning: it’s not that hard for me to pick a picture that I’ve taken recently and make it into a haiku. It’s just a matter of giving myself the solitude and making it a priority. When I was done with the research for this blog post, for example, I realized that the real priority for the day should not be “put up a Practice post” but rather, “make a haiku.” So I stopped the entry – literally mid-keystroke – grabbed my book and started scribbling.
A few minutes later it was done. And in the end, that’s what a priority is: something you do.