Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Time Management Tuesday: A Creativity Mantra To Stimulate New Work

A little over a week ago, some Facebook friends and I were discussing my mantra "When I am exhausted and overwhelmed from too many tasks, I choose one to complete. One that can be completed." Or, to put it in a less unwieldy manner, "Finish something."  

As a result, friend Susan Barlow--yoga and tai chi instructor, historian, and serious walker--sent me the poem The Poet's Occasional Alternative by Grace Paley, which appeared on The Writer's Almanac last month. The poem, she felt, reminded her of our discussion, because it dealt with "doing one do-able thing and allowing that to be enough."

In an attempt to respect the holder of the copyright on this poem, I'll just give you some samples and urge you to seek it out yourself for the full reading experience. It begins:

I was going to write a poem
I made a pie instead      it took
about the same amount of time
of course the pie was a final
draft      a poem would have had some
distance to go 
Towards the middle Paley says:

the pie already had a talking
tumbling audience among small
trucks and a fire engine on
the kitchen floor
She ends with:
I decided to
settle this morning for a re-
sponsive eatership      I do not
want to wait a week      a year      a
generation for the right
consumer to come along

From The Poet’s Occasional Alternative by Grace Paley in Begin Again. © Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2000

Susan happened to send this to me on a Tuesday when I had no Time Management Tueday post, because I had spent the day with a young man, freeing other family members who were building a playset in his backyard. The day before, when I could have been writing the post, I had made pumpkin custard to bring to him. Because, as Paley said of her pie, pumpkin custard is a sure thing. Time Management Tuesday, not so much. 

Touching, Gail, But What Does It Have To Do With Time Management For Writers?

Here's the thing--cooking for people like Paley and me, who don't cook for a living--falls under the category of "unnecessary creativity," which I first wrote about back in 2013 in relation to an essay by Todd Henry.

Todd writes about what he calls "Unnecessary Creation," which he believes "is essential for anyone who works with his or her mind." He's talking about creative acts--making something, anything, that didn't exist  before--that are unrelated to an individual's work. "...something about engaging in the creative act on our own terms seems to unleash latent passions and insights." In other words, creativity spurs creativity. 

That was certainly the case for Grace Paley, whose pie-making inspired a poem. My custard--and reading Paley's poem--inspired a blog post. One of my objectives for this year was to start some eating essays. I'm inching toward that with this piece. Making that custard was time well spent.

A Creativity Mantra

Knowing that one type of creativity can lead to another,  I now have a second mantra.  "When all else fails, create something."


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