What that meant is that, in addition to everything I normally do, I had to take care of her, and take full responsibility for our five-year-old son.
No, I’m not pretending I’m a superhero. Most parents do more than that every single day, for years. But I do want to use this to frame my prompt to you:
CREATE EVERY DAY.
That you can — and perhaps SHOULD — create every single day. Yes, 7 days per week, 365 days per year. I want to share an example from my own life. I’d love if you could add your own in the comments.
The Struggle to Create
The thing I hear most often from writers is this: “I’m struggling to find the time to write.”
That, before they can even get to the idea of improving their craft, to publishing their work, they are concerned that they simply can’t even get a first draft down on paper.
Their books live only as ideas in their heads. And because of that, they live day to day, disheartened with this aspect of themselves.
Sometimes, they view this creative ‘failure’ as a failure in their character, or a character flaw.
That is incredibly unfortunate, how quickly our professional failures can feel like personal failures. So when I suggest what I do in this post, I’m viewing the value of the habit of creating not just as a professional imperative, but a personal imperative.
Two weeks ago, with zero preparation, I decided to start a daily vlog on YouTube. A vlog is a “video log,” basically a video diary.
What that means is that every day, I script, film, edit, and publish a 2-8 minute video. Seven days a week. Even when my wife had the flu and I felt maxed out on time and energy. For instance, this morning I uploaded a video of an amazing hidden library in my town.
What I learned in this process goes far beyond the ability to create every day. I also learned that:
- Every moment can be a creative moment. For instance, as I type this I’m sitting in Starbucks, I have my phone set up on a mini-tripod taking a time-lapse of a beautiful sunrise. I realized that even the most mundane and ordinary moments of my day can be filled with moments of creativity.
- The more stories I tell, the better I get at it. Did you ever read part of a story and wonder how the author beautifully told a story from something pretty simple? What I’m finding is that it is possible to tell a story every day. Or, dozens of times per day. This week I edited together a little video of me making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for my son as a way of illustrating what it means to take care of him while my wife is sick. The subject matter, the edits, were all a way of illustrating that story beyond “My wife is sick.” Because I vlog every day, I create a story every day. That means that every day, I am trying to tell a better story than I did the day before. I am always in storytelling mode.
- A daily routine encourages greater honesty in my work. A daily deadline can be easy on some days, difficult on others. The nice side effect of this is being more honest in the stories I tell. The topics I choose. The way I can share it. There isn’t time to edit down a raw idea into something that is shiny, and perhaps, too shiny to seem authentic. It is authentic because of deadline. While that may not be what you want in a finished novel, it is a great practice in the everyday process of creation.
If you are wondering why I am talking about recording videos if you are a writer, I would say that is part of the point. So much of my life is spent writing. It is nice to have a creative outlet that taps into a different well. Expending creative energy in visual storytelling inherently makes me a better storyteller in my writing.
Be a YES in a World Full of NO
In the past couple years, I have seen loads of blogs and videos about “the power of ‘no’.” Personally, I see “no” way too often. Yes, I understand that the advice others share is supposed to mean, “Dan, when you say no to something that isn’t important, that frees you up to say yes to work that matters.”
For myself, I focus instead on YES. On saying YES with more emphasis. More rigor. Beyond what is reasonable.
For each of us, this “yes” is different. It can be to family, or your job, or a creative project. What I have found in these past two weeks is that when I said “yes” to the vlog — my life was fueled with more creativity.
It was a positive motion, not a negative motion. An embracing of what could be, not a closing off of what shouldn’t be.
To me, there is was something that felt good about that.
Be Diane Keaton
I will leave you with this: Be Diane Keaton.
My friend Anny Rusk shared this on Facebook, a reshare from Wendy MacNaughton:
This was a recent Vanity Fair cover where Diane Keaton stands apart by being herself. There is a great backstory on the photo that illustrates the wonderful collaborative process of the creative team working with Diane, ending up with Diane wearing an outfit of her own design.
But what is missing in that backstory is how the decision was made that the other women would have a certain serious look, at a staged angle, and that Diane would simply be smiling, her entire body squared with the camera.
Every single person involved in this photo (both in front of and behind the camera) is a unique individual. What Diane’s stance, smile, and clothes do is simply remind us of this. To be “for” Diane Keaton does not mean that you are somehow “against” anyone else. Everyone here is wonderful in their own unique way.
What “Be Diane Keaton” means is this:
Be a creator. Be yourself. Be a great collaborator.
And what that means for you can be different things in different moments.
Can you create something new every single day? What would it be? How can you make that happen?