Ten writers for children. All with something to say.


Ideal Conditions for My Best Work?

For the past two weeks I have been down with the flu. I would not normally recommend the flu as conducive to ideal conditions for one's best work, but the mandatory stillness of sickness forced me to take time and reflect on the past 6 to 8 months of my creative life. Though creative with plenty of out-put, I would not label the past 6-8 months "ideal conditions." I was too often racing from one deadline to the next, saying "yes" to too many things, and working 10 to 12 hour days. Now that I am returning to health, I am purposefully nurturing the ideal conditions for my best work:
  • Pause ~ Find moments throughout the day to pause and appreciate what I am writing, drawing or painting.
  • Let Go ~ Begin the day with yoga and a brief meditation to let go of all the to-do lists that begin making themselves as soon as I wake. They will return. they always do.
  • Morning is my best time for work~ Clear mornings for writing, sketching, painting.
  • Write and draw/paint on ideas that do not have a deadline~ I am a very fortunate illustrator with manuscripts to illustrate on contract for the next several years. I love having a deadline to work with, like all of my fellow potatoes, the deadline spurs me on. But giving time to stories and pictures without deadlines adds excitement and adventure to my studio life!
  • Connect with those who believe in me~ I am very fortunate to be working with an editor who believes in me. I am still not clear how it all happened. When I sent her a dark, scary first interpretation of the story SCARECROW years ago, she didn't throw out the contract, though I think everyone at Harcourt was urging her to. Instead, she gave me more time. Her patience and belief in me gave me courage. I also have an artist/composer/writer husband who is intimate with my creative process from the ecstatic successes to the weepy failures, and still he believes in me. And friends. I have cultivated many artist/author friends to share work and life with, all of whom are essential for my best work.
  • Read ~ Make time for reading. Picture Books, Chapter Books, Adult fiction and Non. Make a pile of my favorite reads nearby so I can refer to them when inspiration is needed.
  • Walks ~ A daily walk loosens my cluttered mind and if I open my eyes, something is bound to inspire me.
  • Take Time Off ~ I have a too-strong work ethic. If I am not busy on some task, I feel worthless. Having sat around the house for the past two weeks, reading, watching movies, looking through poetry and art books, and sleeping, I am convinced that time off from everything is essential to doing my best work.


Christy said...

Thank you for these reflections, Lauren. If we all followed these suggestions we'd be assured of good physical and mental health--just the conditions needed for creating our best work. I'm sorry you were so sick, but sounds like you know the best medicines!

Diane Adams said...

Sometimes we need a wake up call don't we? We need an excuse to take time off. I struggle with that all the time. I hope you can keep some of that good quiet time going now that you're feeling better.

Lauren said...

Thanks Diane and Christy~ I am feeling much better!

betsy woods said...

I'm sorry you were not feeling well, but the ways our creativity selves express when we s l o w the momentum down just makes me smile. It also reminds me give my own work the space to take seed, bloom, grow.

David LaRochelle said...

I should print your list of ideal work conditions and post them throughout my apartment, Lauren. Each and everyone of them rang so true to me. Your reminders to slow down, play with "non-contract" projects, and read, are suggestions which would make my creative life richer and healthier. I hope I can absorb some of this good advice.

I've been thinking about you these past weeks and am glad that at last you are finally starting to feel better. I hope you stay healthy for the rest of the winter!

john said...

Lauren, how wonderful to read your list and to find the upside of the flu. I admire the balance and creativity that your approach provides and am impressed with how you make time for other projects with all that is being asked of you. I agree with David that your list serves as a great guide.

Lauren said...

Thanks for the comments all, David, I think I will take your advice and print out this list for myself! As my health returns it is so easy to resume "bad" habits. I don't want to get the flu again as a reminder!

Mark said...

Great list, Lauren! As others have noted, I could stand to follow a few of your ideas with more regularity to aid my own creativity and mental health! Glad you're feeling better. Sometimes, I think, we need a little "enforced idleness" to help us refocus rather than always moving ahead and sometimes losing our way...