Despite our best efforts to maintain balance in our creative lives, to stay connected in a stepwise way with our creative process, balance is for many of us quite an elusive character. As a creative person, by definition, you feel the world around you more intensely, your mind tends to race with interpretation, with new conception. You invest passion into the affairs of daily life outside of your creative work. You invest passion into your relationships. But you are not of the world, and the work of being in the world can be more difficult for you than most – perhaps more draining. Perhaps you are prone to drown your frustrations with the struggles of daily existence with a drink, or some other form of self-medication.
One fine morning our Composer of Music for Art finds herself particularly blurry, after emotionally extricating herself from relationships which had reached limits, relationships, she realized, to which she needed to bid a fond farewell. Because our Composer is a disciplined sort, and because her work, her daily creative process, is like breathing in and out for her, she returns from her morning coffee and engages in the little routines that are the building blocks for her morning’s work.
There is her walk with Deuce the Spaniel, her gentle canine muse. Our Composer tends not to worry too much about warm and fuzzy relations with Spaniel on hangover mornings. And this morning is no exception – Composer grants permission to self to achieve bottom line mission of walk – Spaniel must pee and get a minimum stretch of the legs, which is essentially achieved by a short walk around the block.
This kind of self-permission to do the minimum is a form of grabbing “low hanging fruit”. You have identified certain basic, daily maintenance routines that keep you moving from point A to point B, even on days when you are in a world of emotional or physical pain. Grabbing the low hanging fruit of your walk with Spaniel (or the analogous routines in your mundane life), enables you to reap the important creative benefit of that routine, which is engaging for a few precious moments, away from computer and easel, in creative thought.
And so, in fact, some light bulbs go on this morning for our Composer of Music for Art, in terms of turning the corner conceptually with a little composition that is offering a bit more resistance than expected to her creative charms. Returning with some inspiration after the Spaniel walk, she confronts her work in progress with some hope.
She is in a rather limited state emotionally and physically to handle anything to complex, but she is, ironically, in an excellent state to reach for the low hanging fruit in her project, those small steps available to her which can keep her moving forward. In this case, that low hanging fruit is isolating one simple line in one track of her composition, and applying to it all of the basic aesthetic values and wisdom she has acquired as a musician over the past 40 years. She remembers that, for her, sounds should be beautiful, that for her, a line must breathe, must tell a story. That counterpoints must balance, play off of one another, be blended sonically.
Our Composer’s return to the basic aesthetic values, the tried and true, is a simple, accessible way for her to make the baby step in her project this morning. The solution turns out to be reconnecting with the beautiful sounds available to her on her old Yamaha Portable Grand DGX-200 external synthesizer. And to her great delight, several sounds bring her little track to life, give her hope and vision and understanding about where her current project is going. But low and behold, within minutes, she is plunging again into despair as she has completely forgotten how to get the external keyboard talking properly with her computer so that she can monitor and record audio.
After some minutes of despairing her ability to focus sufficiently on relearning the technical issues and solutions, it occurs to her that she has departed from her current comfort realm, which is seeking the very easy, the very familiar, to ensure some level of productivity this morning. With some remarkable maturity and wisdom, she reminds herself that she has rediscovered the solution to her current technical hangup several times in the past, and that she will find the solution again, when her head is clearer.
So she shifts gears completely, gives her project a kiss on the cheek and a pat on the head, and does some basic image editing work in preparation for posting a new set of abstract artworks on the website. And this again, is identifying the low hanging fruit, critical but easy and available work that needs to be done and offers the gift of a productive morning.
Be gentle with yourself, be full of hope, for all the hard work you do, all the pushing of the envelope into new terrain, the new learning which you struggle through. All this enables you, on mornings such as these, to give the self permission to breathe a little, to work the obvious and the easy. And in the evening, or in the morning, you will be delighted and surprised to see how progress rushes forward for you.