Believe in nothing, no matter who says it, even if I say it, if it does not agree with your own experience and your own common sense ~ Buddha

Last week Rupa wrote a very poetic post about the importance of respecting the cyclical nature of creation. I thought it was really a great metaphor, that pulling back of the arrow is every bit as necessary as letting the arrow fly. I particularly like it because it doesn’t make the downtime a big deal. I mean, how long does it take to nock another arrow to the string? It’s essential, but not really an obstacle.

Most notably, she said, “Would you rather be productive, or creative?” And she’s right; productivity is the easy win. It’s simple, measurable, and visible. Creativity is done so much under the surface that you can lose focus, lose perspective, falter, and thrust yourself even further into the cataract where you’ll invariably struggle.


But, like I said in her comments, I’m addicted to the high of productivity as much as the next person. I know, obviously, that I cannot be building all the time, but at the same time, I’m restless without something to keep me busy.

So my technique has been to have two or three rather disparate tasks at hand that I can switch my attention to. You guys are gonna laugh at the nerdy way I spend my time.

To get the productivity juices flowing:

  1. I have this business. Actual time spent with clients is the easy part. Figuring out how to serve them best, and the marketing, and the writing; that’s hard. And I don’t like to push it, because then it’s not my best work. That’s why this post is a day late.
  2. When I cannot bring myself to write or otherwise work on FTS, I do something that doesn’t require much thought. Housecleaning is my preference, and right now I’m delightfully caught up in automating routines for household tasks and systemizing them a la the FlyLady control journal. Because my husband and stepson would help more, but they don’t know what needs to be done.

Cleaning and Creativity work well together because you cannot do anything but thinking while you are vacuuming. If my house is clean, I’ll organize a closet or something. One day I alphabetized my recipe cards after first dividing them into entrees or baking. These tasks seem banal in the extreme, but they make my life easier in imperceptible ways. I’m the type that cannot relax if things are disorganized, and I just keep a running list of little jobs that need to be streamlined. Plus, if you do little job like cleaning out a junk drawer, it makes you feel a little more grounded, a little more in control of life, and I often find that after I’m done that little task, even if I still don’t have an idea for a post, I can settle in front of my computer and the words will come.

To get the creativity juices flowing:

  1. I usually have some larger project going on in the background behind FTS. They’re nebulous, and have no due date, so I find it really easy to get paralyzed and waste a bunch of time catching up on my feedreader. Quite frankly, this pisses me off. So I sneak up on it. If I’m really feeling pressured, I’ll open up my journal and free-associate until whatever I’m stuck on loosens up. Or,
  2. I do a different creative project. Right now, as I mentioned, I’m working on the budgets and plans for a few small construction projects around the ranch in the next several months. This is fun for me, figuring out the costs, and researching the best way to do things, estimating materials and so forth. In the summer months, I’ll go out and garden. I have a huge yard and it requires a fair amount of maintenance, so I use it as leverage. I’ll go out and weed or prune, but if I get pissed off, I have to go back and work on my stuff. Sometimes I choose to go back in and work, and sometimes I don’t, but either way, something gets accomplished.

I think the biggest argument you could make with my methods are that a fair amount of what I do is rather meaningless, petty shit. A binder containing household SOPs? Seriously? That’s a value judgement. Organization makes me feel serene, and for me, serenity means I’ll be more creative, and ultimately more productive. I can’t create all the time. But I can use the time I’m not creating productively, in a manner that’s supportive of the life I want to lead.


Comments on: "Would you Rather Be Productive Or Creative?" (4)

  1. I love it! You’re a Flylady nerd! Um…me, too. For me, cleaning helps to release pent-up energy and makes more ‘room’ for creative inspiration. Hardly meaningless! Gardening has a similar effect on me –I suspect it balances the mental with the physical. Thanks, Shanna. x

    • To be honest, Rupa, I love requests like this because explaining it to other people helps to clarify my process. Like, a lot. And the snow is allllllllmost gone from here, so I look forward to being outside pruning all week.

      Are you a flylady nerd too? hi five!

  2. yay you!

    My first reaction to the headline was – Do you really have to choose ‘one’ or ‘the other’? Sounds like you’re both “creatively productive” and “productively creative” Hah!

    I definitely grok Organization makes me feel serene – it reinforces the part that wants to feel in control.

    • I see someone else is a scanner 🙂

      Organization is a moving target too, I’ve noticed, but once you’re in a place where the basics are covered, it’s really nice to be in. Your environment isn’t always shouting at you

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