Does adulthood squash creativity or am I just lazy?

This post will be a rant.  Expect it.  Don’t be too disappointed.

See how I make disclaimers?  That’s because I’m an adult.  And adults have expectations of other adults.

The expectation that I am fighting off by this disclaimer is that I should be able to write a coherent post because I am an adult and I am educated and I call myself a writer and I edit other people’s writing for a living and I got enough sleep last night.

Point 1:  I finished my novel!  All of my theories for creativity now stand proven, which are thus:

1.  Take a break when you do not feel creative, because you won’t write anything good, and it will let things percolate, and you’ll come back and BAM creativity.  (My break from first planning this novel to writing it in NaNoWriMo was about 3 years…)

2.  Sometimes you need a gun to your head to write.  NaNoWriMo, as expected, did that for me wonderfully.  Plus I got this cool T-shirt…

The 2013 winner's shirt for winning ladies like me

The 2013 NaNoWriMo winner’s shirt for winning ladies like me

Point 2:  It’s hard to be creative if you have to be an adult at the same time. If you haven’t read Hyperbole and a Half before, you should.  Just don’t do it in public.  Not at work.  Maybe not at home either.  It’s just, when you read it, you should be in a place where it’s allowed – maybe even encouraged – for you to be laughing so hard that tears are streaming out of your eyes and your abs are working so hard from the laughing that eventually you vomit onto your computer screen.

One post in particular has me thinking about my own situation as an adult and how hard it is to be creative as an adult, because the pressures of life can be so overpowering unless you have an active strategy for fighting them off and seeking sanctuary for your creativity:

How to be an adult

‘How to be an adult’ by Hyperbole and a Half blog author Allie Brosh

This post demonstrates my particular predicament – one that I’m sure is common to many artists, writers, and other creative types.

See, I have to be an adult.  So apart from my one-month-long break where I didn’t socialise with anyone except my novel and my immediate family and my boyfriend, I feel society tells me that I “shouldn’t” procrastinate my life away.  Instead, I “should” be productive.

But if I must be productive, when can I create?  And if I must create – which previous posts have established I must – when can I achieve being productive?  It’s difficult to write a grant application when my mind is going, write your next novel instead.  Write the text for your wedding invitations instead.  Go do the grocery shopping instead.  Do any number of the fifteen things on your to-do list instead.

So, what is a good active strategy for being both productive and creative?

You could make a timeline.  I will be productive from 9am to 12 noon.  Then I will have lunch!  (Huzzah!)  After lunch, I will work on creative things from 1pm until 3pm.  At 3pm, I will take a much-needed nap.  From 4pm until 5:30pm (it’s cooler then, and right now in Australia it is inferno season), I will work on productive things.  Tomorrow, I will do an hour on creative things in the morning, then go do the groceries, then work on productive things.

Naturally, this timeline is designed for freelancers, not for full-time workers who are at a desk from 9 till 5.  During NaNoWriMo, I was working more hours than I am now, so I effectively worked 9 till 5 and then wrote from 8 till 9 in the morning and from 7 till 8 in the evening.

Point 3:  Maybe adulthood does squash creativity.  There was a TED talk by this Korean writer (anyone know where the link for this has gone?) who was saying that his parents made him a good storyteller because they allowed him to lie, as long as it was an interesting lie.  But if he didn’t do his homework, and he told his teacher that it was because he’d fallen in the river and nearly drowned, his teacher would write on his report card that he was a poor student.  Not that he was imaginative.  Just that he hadn’t done the work.  His teacher was training him to be an adult.

Ken Robinson talks about a similar theory, how schools kill creativity, in an English-speaking TED talk here:

So am I worse adult because I’m trying to be creative at the same time?  Am I a worse creator because I’m trying to be an adult?

I told you this would be a ramble.  Maybe I’m not such an adult after all.


This post was written by TJ Withers-Ryan © 2014. Reblogging is highly encouraged as long as you credit me as the author.

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