I’m a creative person. To be happy in the long term, I need (at least) four things: mental stimulation, social interaction, physical challenges and creative input/output. If any of these are running low for a long period of time, I will feel it in some way. Being enrolled in a master’s degree program here in Taiwan, I have the first aspect above pretty much covered; just surviving my courses is mental stimulation enough to kill a small cow. Even though my social situation leaves some things to wish for (Zoe is 8361 kilometres away, and the number is roughly as large for family and friends), it still works fairly well. When it comes to physical activity, I’ve practised gymnastics this semester than ever before and I enjoy it immensely.
When it comes to creativity, however, I have felt a shortage building up since I came to Taiwan. In Sweden, I have very creative friends and play or write role-playing games regularly, which means that the default creativity input/output is significantly above zero. In Taiwan, the situation is completely different. My only significant creative output comes from more light-hearted and relaxed articles (such as the April Fool’s article last month) and some creative writing in Chinese. I have also written several hundred pages of text related to Hacking Chinese, but that doesn’t really count as creative writing. Creative input has been slightly better since I keep reading quite a lot of novels, mostly in Chinese, but output remains dismally low.
Obviously, something needs to be done about this. I feel a growing need to write freely about whatever I feel like writing about, without caring about what anybody else thinks about it, otherwise it will start creeping into my academic work (the detailed lesson plans I handed in last semester contained vampires, Hitler and fireworks, but I stopped short of including all three in the same setting).
The problem is that most of my current projects, especially my novel, takes quite a lot of time to work on, it’s not something I can pick up for half an hour and write a paragraph or two, it requires me to focus deeply. If I were in the habit of writing daily, it would be fine, but I don’t have time to do that. I always feel like I have a thousand other things to do. At this pace, I will never finish, not to mention publish, any novel. I can’t postpone my creative output forever. Let’s accept it, I will always be busy, I don’t need fewer things to do, I need a way of being able to write creatively even while I’m busy.
Enter: Creative Saturdays
To alleviate this problem, I intend to try something I’ve chosen to call creative Saturdays. It doesn’t mean that I will only spend my time doing creative things once a week, it means that I will prohibit myself from doing certain non-creative things on Saturdays. If I have already decided that I’m not going to study, review vocabulary, write on a paper or prepare next weeks classes, I might free up enough time and energy to actually get something else done. Perhaps I will be able to get rid of the feeling that I should actually be doing something else.
Here’s a list of things I won’t do on Saturdays:
- Study Chinese in any way
- Prepare for tests, reports or similar
- Do any kind of homework
- Manage the Hacking Chinese website
- Reply to or discuss any of the above
So, what will I do instead? Well, they say the sky is the limit, so I suppose anything is possible, but here are a few things that I can say right away that I want to do more:
- Write short stories (Swedish, English or Chinese)
- Finish the draft of my novel (Swedish)
- Plan the next novel (Swedish or English)
- Write on the Hacking Chinese e-book(s) (English)
- Write articles on this website (English)
- Read more fiction (Chinese)
Will this work? Will the fact that I have forbidden myself from doing the things in the first list above actually help me create more? I don’t know. Today is the first creative Saturday and I haven’t done very much yet apart from writing this article, playing some games online, read about 50 pages in the novel I’m reading and planning an article about gymnastics. I still have almost 12 hours left before going to bed. I probably won’t have reached the sky by then, but I should at least be on my way!