Creativity Practice Essay by Walter Hawn: “It Ain’t Practice Unless It’s Work”
Walter Hawn is an award-winning writer, former broadcast newsman, and a photographer practicing in Wyoming which he calls "the last best place in the world." You can find more of his work of capturing Western light through photography at www.walterhawn.com. I met Walter through an Eric Maisel creativity support group, and am continually enchanted by his wry wisdom. --JGR
"Garden Creek Path," photo by Walter Hawn (copyrighted by http://westernlightphotographers.com)
Walter Hawn, Fine Art Photographs of Wyoming and the West, "It's fraught with possibilities."
I Get Creatin' in the Mornin'
It Ain't Practice Unless It's Work
"Creativity Practice" is just that, practicing your own version of the creative urge. An actor acts, a writer writes, a dancer dances, and so on. Creation, of any sort, is a profession, just as the more recognized 'practices' are: A doctor practices doctoring, and lawyer practices lawyering, a plumber practices plumbering.
The problem we artists face is that what we do looks 'way too much like fun. It's treated in school as ancillary and unimportant. Many of our parents thought the same, and threw in "frivolous," besides.
Because creative practice isn't honored as work, it's hard for us to face as work. It seems like it ought to be fun, always, and fun you can pick up and put down whenever you like. When something stops being fun, we tend to stop playing. So, the ideal is to generate the same practicing mentality of a professional engineer or optician. Or truck driver. We go to work, we do our work, we experience our fun (for it is fun), and we set it down at quitting time and move on to other things.
The appointed time for many creators is the morning. Twyla Tharp says she starts her day with a cab-ride and a workout, then gets to the dance studio. Robert Silverberg, for years, took himself to a cheap, low-rent, run-down office first thing after breakfast, where he wrote non-stop for hours. My friend Spencer Bohren, as a high school kid, practiced on his (I was jealous) Martin Guitar every morning before school. He plays so much better than I, even though I now have an Alvarez that he might covet....
For myself, I am less certain "the morning" is necessary. For one thing, I don't have a time-bound job, so I can awaken when I like, and my body prefers to awaken at around nine-thirty to ten. I do find though, that if I postpone beginning my creative practice very much beyond an hour after waking, I never manage to get to it. For those with the nine-to-five syndrome, I suspect that an early morning practice an hour long is preferable to trying to squeeze it in after supper.
A meditative practice can be helpful, but it's not the creative work we're trying to accomplish. For some, it's foreplay for creation, for others it's post-creation cuddling.
Most creators find that three to five hours a day is about all the concentrated effort the human mind can stand. After that, we find easier things, like income tax preparation, to slow the mind down to a 'normal' pace. Sadly, some use various substances to put the brakes on. At quittin' time is when I find meditation to be most helpful. It slows things down, and it helps fix accomplishments in place, so that I don't go wondering, "What is it I just did?" for I have a tendency to be amnesiatic about what I do while in the creative trance, and meditation helps me find my center again so I can do the dishes and sweep the floor.
© 2008 Walter Hawn
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