It’s easy to make your creativity dependent on your environment. You can’t write that book until you escape to the perfect cabin in the woods. You can’t produce that song until you find the ideal recording studio. You can’t initiate that difficult conversation until the time is right.
When I’m working on the rough draft of a novel, this is what my perfect day looks like: Wake up. Make breakfast. Take the dog out. Dive straight into the manuscript and write for a solid three or four hours. Go on a run. Eat lunch. Spend the afternoon working through email, connecting with friends, etc. Make dinner. Relax. Read. Sleep.
But here’s the dirty little secret: if I waited for days like that, I wouldn’t be a novelist.
I finished drafting Veil as my wife and I walked the five-hundred mile Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route. After a quick breakfast, we’d hoist our heavy packs and trek all day through the misty mountains, secluded valleys, and rugged coastlines of northern Spain. Summer sun beat down. Freak thunderstorms soaked us to the bone. Finally, hungry, exhausted, and nevertheless buoyant, we’d stumble into a rural village and arrive at an albergue—a local guesthouse run by volunteers. We’d eat a simple meal, tend to our aches and pains, and then I’d retreat to my bunk in the shared dorm, pull out my laptop, and write a chapter, or a paragraph, or a sentence, before falling asleep.
Veil exists because I didn’t make writing it dependent on finding optimal conditions.
Veil exists because I wrote it whenever and wherever I could.
Creativity isn’t some chance aligning of fickle stars. Creativity is a choice. You don’t need the perfect cabin, the ideal recording studio, or the right time. The only right time is now. So stop making excuses. Go make the thing you dream of making, the thing you wish someone would make for you. We’re here, waiting for it.
Complement with my advice for authors, finding your voice, and formal instruction is never a prerequisite for making good art.
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Eliot Peper is the author of nine novels, including Cumulus, Bandwidth, and, most recently, Veil. He sends a reading recommendation newsletter and lives in Oakland, CA.
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