I have a very odd personality. Many people have told me I’m very “right brain left brain.” I have a keen business sense, like organization, live by deadline, and require major structure. But, I am also wildly creative, have bizarre sleep patterns, believe in going with the flow, and often feel lost because I’m torn in so many creative directions. It’s like two people in one body.
My rigid routines allow me to be creative. I’ve come to realize that without a deadline, or without a very structured class plan, I could never succeed happily, because I couldn’t be as creative as I’d like. What I’m trying to say is that the structure I’ve created is what gives me the freedom to explore and be creative. I need an outline so that I can check in with myself. Otherwise, my creativity would flow in every direction and I’d never finish a single thing.
Because of my need to be creative, I have to have variety. I get bored if I am working on just the same thing all of the time. When I’m working out, a week of the same work out is enough for me. Then I’m bored and I need change. Ask anyone who has ever been one of my students. We have structures in place, but within the structure we are always changing, from the set up of the room to when and how we’re learning. It’s necessary to have routines, but you have to switch it up! The kids will tell you they’re bored. I’m the same way.
And so it goes with my writing, I utilize variety. I’ve been more successful in completing manuscripts this year than ever before. The reason is because I’ve created a structure. I write for specified blocks of time on specified days. I don’t sway from them. To date, I’ve worked on my upper middle grade fantasy manuscript during the blocks. I have weekly word count targets and a plotted story with room for variance. I go back and modify it as needed. But, on the story level, it always surprises me. The characters tell me what will happen next. Somehow they always get to point B. I think it’s because I’ve found the right balance. When it is time to revise, some of the targets may change, and that’s okay. Quite frankly, I think I might even get rid of the main character before the revisions are finished, and rewrite from a different perspective. But I need to finish her story first.
I also need variety in what I write. I was so focused on writing picture books that I forgot that I wanted to write middle grade. I’ve finally pulled out my PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) files from the last two years and started plucking away at them. I’m motivated now. I’ve rewritten an old story, and realized that another story could actually be a sequel. That’s one more PiBoIdMo idea that’s been written now. From that, I had a whole other idea come to light, featuring the same character.
I could never have completed this much writing in a month without a structure in place. The picture book work has been done outside of my dedicated writing blocks. The manuscript for my MG novel will be completed in only four more weeks. Then, I am ready for the next thing: another MG novel, but a whole new approach. I am able to explore, so why not?
The point of this whole post is really just: allow yourself the time and room to be creative. Have variety. But if you’re like me, and are unhappy that you don’t create as much as you wish you did, try setting up some restraints, some outlines, some structures so that you can grow within it. My weekly blocks are only one hour in length and last for two days. That’s manageable for anyone. My weekend block is a minimum of 2 hours. But, I often write for at least 1-2 extra hours now, and have given more time to research and networking, because I feel ownership of my creativity.