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Creativity in the Mundane: On writing among bruised banana slices

I write this post from my cluttered kitchen table. There are squashed, bruised banana slices at my feet, bananas that my daughter threw at the dog, who didn’t want them either. I spent the morning reading “Curious George Goes Fishing” a dozen times, wiping a tiny bum and playing peek-a-boo. I write fast, because as soon as I hear her stir, I know I have about five minutes to wrap it up before I need to have lunch ready.

This two-hour window – if I am lucky – is my chance to write today.

Since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a writer, and I had an idyllic picture of what my writing life would look like. I imagined I’d write novels from a quiet outdoor bench on my farm overlooking the ocean. Cows mooing in the distance and crashing waves would provide perfect background noise to inspire profound literary greatness.

In my imagination, the farm never needed tending, the house never needed cleaning, bills never demanded payment. There was no day job to attend. In fact, money – spending it or earning it – didn’t play into my fantasy at all. If children did exist, they tended to themselves and their antics proved useful for collecting material for my books. I write with the breeze on my face, my butt never sore from sitting, my fingers never cold from typing.

(Side note: If you know of a real-life farm that overlooks the ocean, please tell me. I want to go to there.)

We boring grownups can chuckle at this ridiculous 7-year-old girl’s imagination, but I share it today because I think many of us subconsciously hold on to similar assumptions of the writer’s life.

I need hours and hours of uninterrupted time to write.

I need to be somewhere, by myself, in nature with a warm beverage in hand.

I need to wait for inspiration to strike.

I don’t have the time. 

I need to write from an aesthetically pleasing location, or a trendy coffee shop.  

I need total silence to write.

I have to [quit my day job, hire a nanny] to write.

I need to go on a personal retreat to write. Preferably in Bali.

I am learning the difference between writing and talking about writing is found in discipline. Writing in the little crevasses in the day. Waking up before the sun to clunk out a few hundred words before the day begins. Writing at night for twenty minutes instead of watching TV.

Writing with bruised banana slices on the kitchen floor.

Recently I had the realization that life is never going to get easier. It is never going to slow down. I will never have ideal writing conditions.

If I keep waiting for that day, my life will have gone by and I will have never told my stories.

What is the story that is burning inside you? The perfect time to write is now.

Creativity must be found in the mundane. To flourish, it must be fed regularly. It demands intention. For years I waited for moments of sporadic inspiration. What do I have to show for from those years? Not much. I talked a lot about writing, but I was full of crap, because very rarely was my “butt in chair,” as the great Anne Lamott instructs.

In Steve Pressfield’s brilliant book “The War of Art,” he talks about the power that is unleashed from creative consistency.

“This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse [Greek god of arts and sciences] takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.”

I am working on becoming that magnetized rod. It’s not a mysterious process. It’s just hard work.

What about you? What are the things blocking you from creativity? How do you incorporate writing in your daily life?


Above image from Flickr Creative Commons, by ValerieMorrison-Photography.com

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9 Comments

  1. Kelly Cone on February 21, 2014 at 10:35 am

    So true. Here on the Central Coast there are plenty of farms in Cayucos, overlooking the sea 🙂

  2. Carly Gelsinger on February 21, 2014 at 10:39 am

    I love Cayucos! We live in a town that is geographically between the Central Coast and Silicon Valley. I didn’t realize there were farms there… May just have to retire there.

  3. Stephanie on February 21, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    This is so true. The hardest part for me is to deal with interruptions … but I have four children, I’m never NOT interrupted. Right now I wake up very early and go to a coffee shop to write for an hour or so before my husband leaves for work. But sometimes that gets thrown off by lack of sleep or my husband’s work schedule. At this moment, I’m writing in a messy kitchen with Aladdin playing in the next room. I am working on just being thankful for the snippets of time I do have.

    • Carly Gelsinger on February 21, 2014 at 12:59 pm

      Hi Stephanie! I know, when I said “it’s never going to get easier” I was thinking “what is going to happen when I have more kids?!” I can barely manage one and get writing in. I admire your dedication.

  4. Stephanie on February 21, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    My second was born 18 months after my first. When they were babies, I realized anything I really wanted to do I would have to make a priority, or it would never happen. I have time for writing because it energizes me; cleaning toilets does not. =) Of course, I also have the house to show it …

  5. lthompson513 on February 21, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    I think my “To Do” list blocks my creativity. And since I work from home, my “To Do” list is usually cluttered with “requirements” and “deadlines” that I made. I have my jobs and work projects, but I’ll add things undue pressure on myself to organize my tax records or clean my kitchen every day. And since that almost never happens, I carry that burden of “Why can’t I accomplish this?” on my shoulders, which in turn, weighs on my creativity.

    Today I put writing on my To Do list as #2. It took longer than I wanted it to take. I didn’t finish all of my work for today. But, I’ll get it done over the weekend, or early next week. And in the meantime, I feel better for taking that hour to “be” with myself, to make an attempt at creativity.

    • Carly Gelsinger on February 21, 2014 at 4:14 pm

      Yes. I like to say I sacrifice a clean house to write. My husband tells me my expectations for a given day are way too high. I usually get depressed around 4 p.m. when I haven’t accomplished all that I thought I could. Learning to narrow down the to-do list and simplify priorities.

  6. Elizabeth Gelsinger on March 24, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    Thanks for this post. While my writing days do look a bit more idyllic than yours, for me I also have to get to work doing them. It still is a discipline, something to be consistent at, even when the ideas don’t seem to be flowing very well. I’m glad to learn this part of the discipline now so that when there are banana slices on my floor maybe I’ll get the other part of it figured out, too. 🙂

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