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The Joy Menu #9: Taps
Your intrepid author gets hungry and explains creativity as a kitchen-related activity. Delicious wisdom ensues.
To say this past week was eventful…is an understatement.
Whether you think the results were worth the stress, or you’re complicit in fascism—either way: it was a lot.
For many of us (and by “us” I mean “me”), creative expression was not top of mind this week. And that’s OK. What isn’t OK is being an asshole to yourself about it. (Save that energy for our political leaders, amiright?)
So in an effort to encourage self-compassion and post-fatigue snazz, I’m going to offer advice that has been key to my process of creative reinvigoration many a time and many an election cycle. And I’m going to do so with three kitchen-related metaphors. Because I’ve gained some stress weight during this last month. And because kitchens are where great artists make dinner. Usually.
Just Check the Taps
As with all kitchen metaphor sequences, this one begins with the kitchen sink. And as with all sink metaphors, this one centers on the source, the stars: the taps.
The job of the creative is check the taps, every day; not to forcefully collect every drop of potential, but to capture what flows, and then take a break.
In other words, don’t run the taps until they’re dry. But make a habit of enjoying their output and giving them time to refill. Letting them rest is just as important a part of being creative as running them when they are flowing.
Rage, frustration, and squeezing out every drop with a vice will not serve you in the end. Your job is the long game. And your task is to show up.
(H/t to Brady for this metaphor which I may have butchered* [*I know].)
Prepare Your Meals
Anyone who’s ever been on a diet knows that the enemy of calorie restriction is lack of planning.
When you feel that special wolfish hunger that comes when your body knows it’s being tricked into shrinking, even a single M&M innocently sitting between you and making lunch can be enough to distract you from making healthy choices.
Same when you’re out of practice, but want to create.
Instagram, TikTok, email, day jobs, TV, dogs, literal M&Ms—these can easily derail the “intention” to get back to creativity.
Avoid such pitfalls by prepping your creative work like you would your weekly meals:
keep your guitar on a stand with the pick ready between two strings;
leave your novel on the kitchen table (sorry, roomies) so you can’t “forget” to work on it;
let the browser with your digital collage stay open, even when you snap your laptop shut (close the one with CNN on it instead).
Distractions are like easy calories; they’ll always seem like a good idea at the time. Give yourself the advantage of minimizing their pull by putting your creative work in the way instead.
Then trip over it.
Don’t Wash the Dishes
This is going to be hard for my mother to read. The one thing she taught me (besides decency, honesty, not being a fascist, and to read) was to always wash the dishes before going to bed.
This does not apply to creative work.
If you clean up your output up every night, tying off loose ends, tidying the rough edges, going back over every split infinitive and awkward comma, redrawing the character you just created, and smoothing out the cracks in the facade, you’ll wake up the next day to perfection…and be too intimidated to start up again making crap.
Take a page from old Hemingway: stop mid-sentence, while the going is good.
Keep it messy, so you always feel comfortable stumbling back into the midst of the mess to keep going. Avoid getting stuck admiring your past perfections, or succumbing to the impression that “you’ll never do it that well again.”
Leave the dishes. Go to bed. Clean it up later.
Preferably months from now, after you finish the whole novel/mural/kitchen remodel.
That’s all for today, friends. Go take a walk, paint a watercolor, or hold your elected officials accountable.
But don’t clean the kitchen.
Onward to creative joy,