By Christina Delay
Freedom is a contradictory word, don’t you think? The official definition of freedom is the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint. However, follow that to its extreme and chaos reigns.
But that’s the dream of every author, right? To be free to write on our own schedule, without the hindrance of other obligations. We want our book sales or family life or work schedule to provide us this freedom so we may be the best author we can be. But what happens when we get exactly what we want?
The patooties are heading back to school for the first time in seventeen months, and I am nose-to-nose with this concept of freedom, experiencing its contradictions in all its forms:
- Fear of the unknown
- Excitement for an actual work day
- Trepidation about what to do with uninterrupted hours (or, let’s be real here, minutes)
- Uncertainty about the right path forward
- Elation about having a few quiet hours in the house to write and to work
- Doubt I can meet my writing goals and deadlines again, as it has been so very long….
I don’t feel very free.
With the world finding a new normal, are you experiencing something similar? Whether it be back-to-school, back-to-in-office-work, or simply the end of summer approaching, it’s not surprising if we find ourselves wrestling with conflicting emotions about the next season of our life.
Ronald Reagan says we need order to have freedom.
“There can be no freedom without order, and there is no order without virtue. ”
The musical Hamilton says our freedom can never be taken away.
“Raise a glass to freedom, Something they can never take away.”
Turns out, feeling free is different from freedom. Breaking it down further, I believe that in order to feel free and experience true freedom, we must first break free…
Expectations are a sticky bog. Whether they be our own expectations for ourselves, others’ expectations for us, or even our expectations of others, when we start making decisions based on expectations, and our attitude and mood are affected by expectations, we lose our freedom. We are no longer able to feel free.
What expectations are you or others placing on your creative life?
- A golden first draft
- To make a story fit into a specific genre
- To meet every deadline (self-imposed or contractual), regardless of what is going on in your personal life
- More sales
- Five star reviews
- This book must do better than the last book
- This book must be better than the last book
- Reader feedback, suggestions, wish list
- Must engage your community on social media
- Write X amount of words or write for X amount of time every day
Can you feel the pressure building? Just writing that list made my breathing go shallow.
Now take a moment and imagine…how would it feel to let all of that go?
What impact would it have on your creativity if you approached it with zero expectations, if you allowed yourself to simply enjoy the moments in which you have to write?
I bet it’d be pretty freeing.
From Old Habits
I don’t know about you, but I have developed some…let’s frame it as not helpful…habits over the past year.
Now is a good time to assess what lifestyle changes we’ve accepted that may no longer be beneficial to what we actually want for ourselves.
What do you want? What habits are holding you back from getting there?
As with all change, baby steps that are achievable, measurable, and realistic are key. Can you commit to taking a brainstorm walk once a week? How about going to bed 30 minutes earlier? Or meal plan once a week?
Being free to be our best creative selves starts with self-care. Self-care is not selfish. It is essential.
There is freedom in understanding what it is we want for ourselves. Now’s the time to take the steps away from unhelpful habits and move toward affirming rituals that lead us further down the path we’ve chosen.
…or rather, the anxiety that upheaval can cause.
And, as I’m sure you well know, anxiety is a huge drag on creativity. 2020 was a huge upheaval year. 2021 continues to be a huge upheaval year. Throw in any personal or family changes and, well…anxiety is a fairly common emotion that’s been floating around.
Our brains are wired to avoid change. Why? Change means we’re introducing something unknown into our safe zone, triggering our brains to think we’re no longer safe.
When we begin to understand the scientific why of our reactions to change or new information, we gain the ability to better handle the anxiety that comes hand-in-hand with upheaval. Knowing that anxiety is normal when something new is introduced into our life makes it easier to breathe through it, to know that this too will pass.
It is okay if your creativity suffers during a time of upheaval. It is normal.
So break free from the guilt surrounding not being able to be your most creative self during a time of upheaval. Let it go, give yourself grace, and I bet you’ll quickly find yourself feeling free.
I wish I had a magic button or a code word that could open a heart and mind to accepting freedom without hesitation or restraint. But I don’t.
What I do have is persistence and faith. Persistence to keep trying, to keep doing a little better each day in letting go of expectations, accepting change, and breathing through anxiety. Faith that despite the uncertainty of the immediate future, I will choose to do what’s best for me, my creativity, and my family and friends.
Easier said than done, I know. So here are some practical tips on how to move into a new season with acceptance, grace, and hopefully, some creative productivity.
- Find a quiet time in the mornings to meditate, pray, or journal about your creative vision for this new season. Even five minutes will allow you a more centered start to your day.
- Reach out, talk to a friend. Connection with our trusted circle of loved ones is healing, and allows for us to navigate change with a cheer squad in the background.
- Accept that your creative work is important and necessary.
- Set small, achievable goals, rather than big, insurmountable deadlines.
- Remember to breathe.
There can be no freedom without order…and that order comes from our inner selves being at peace and able to flexibly move through change.
So raise a glass to freedom. And then get back to writing.
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