Last weekend, awesome Canberra poet Andrew Galan* was interviewed by Melanie Tait on ABC local radio - 666 Canberra. Among other things, he discussed the concept of a 'professional poet' and how a regular paying job can be complementary to writing poetry.
This made me think: what are the things I do that support my creativity? I have never tried to survive as a poet, and I am not sure I could, but I can see that other aspects of my life help make my creative work better.
A '9 to 5' job
I agree with Andrew. Besides paying the bills, a regular job supports my creativity and make my poetry more imaginative and relevant. I can't imagine writing locked away in a study somewhere. Some of my best ideas come while working on other things.
While I am fortunate enough to not have a mundane job, there is something comforting in repetition, something fundamental in 'laying bricks' or 'counting widgets'. The brain (and the heart) is not very good at working at 100% all the time. Sometimes, it is happy just chugging along for a while, waiting for that precisely random moment to spring the next brilliant idea on you.
Which brings me to the next point: some of my best thoughts have come when I haven't been thinking. Taking a break from writing poetry (or being creative in any way) is sometimes exactly what I need to be creative. I don't mean that writing poetry and preparing for performance is never simply hard work. Sometimes it is. Often I just have to work through a new poem or rehearse a performance (over and over). But true creativity doesn't seem to come from intense concentration. Often it is the exact opposite.
My best ideas have come either when I have not been thinking about writing or when I have returned to a poem after days or even weeks. Rarely do my most creative moments come three hours into a concentrated period of writing or rehearsal.
I am a big advocate of healthy body, healthy mind. One of the best things I ever did was take up running. I am not a fast runner, but I do run for a long time.
I feel fantastic after a run. It helps physically and it also seems to empty out the trash from my mind. Sometimes I get great ideas running (best thoughts come when not thinking) but even when I don't, my mind seems fresher and more nimble afterwards.
My family keeps me grounded. It provides an ongoing reason to be engaged, to be present and to love. Oh, and it provides ample material for poetry.
*Andrew Galan, together with the Master of Conflict and the Score Adder, hosts BAD!SLAM!NO!BISCUIT! at the Phoenix Pub in Civic, Canberra on the third Wednesday of every month. His interview with Melanie can be found here. He blogs at this place.