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Accepting your creative cadence
And inviting more of it into your workflow.
Dear Creative Adventurer,
It’s nearly 1AM and I’m twisted like some strange homemade pretzel on the couch, pinned by one dog curled up against the small of my back and the other draped across my legs. My laptop balances precariously on my hip, meaning I have to sink a little into my double chins to see the screen clearly through my glasses, but I don’t mind. After waiting weeks for inspiration to strike, I’m finally (finally!) in tune with my creative cadence for writing.
What is creative cadence?
The word “cadence” speaks to the idea of rhythm – not to be conflated with routine. If I may, we’re a little too obsessed with “routines for success” these days – the likes of which infer the promise that if we follow so-and-so’s way of doing things that we’ll be granted access to the same kind of wins they enjoy. “Eat this breakfast and you’ll be more productive. Listen to this music and you’ll be more inspired. Work this way and it’ll all fall into place...”
Of course, I still devour any article in which somebody notable talks about their habits; it’s hard not to and I’m only human. I enjoy nosily mining the subtext for clues about how they really made it to where they are. It’s nice to believe that someone has it all figured out (and even nicer to believe that a lot of it hinges on what kind of coffee they drink or journal practice they keep).
But, if we’re not careful, this curiousity can cloud how we connect to how we create – aka our creative cadence, the rhythm that works best for and sustains our unique creativity like a metaphorical heartbeat.
Tuning out assumptions
Lately, I’ve been trying to squeeze personal writing projects, like The Gooseberry Review, into my studio schedule, but no matter how hard I try during daylight hours, the words refuse to work their way out of my brain.
It turns out that 11PM-1AM-ish, this time caught between night and more than night, is when I’m most fully able to write. This is when the words arrive with the least amount of resistance, clamoring to pour out onto the page through my fingertips. And yet, I’ve been fighting this inclination, because we’re told over and over again that it’s not a good thing to continue working in the evening after a busy day. (Fair point, burnout is a real problem in our culture.)
I felt like I was doing something... wrong.
I’ve been so worried about what picking up my laptop to write when the rest of the world is winding down means – “The screen-time! Workaholic much? Why aren’t you resting?” – that I haven’t been writing.
Absorbing these assumptions disconnected me from my creative cadence – to the way I write, to when my imagination is most alive, to the fact that writing, although yes, technically a type of work, also feels good to me (most of the time), and that doing something that feels genuinely good is relaxing for me.
Instead of fighting my own rhythms, I needed to accept them. After all, two hours of making something in tune with your creative cadence is going to generate a far stronger result than five hours trying to force an idea to happen.
Keep in mind, this doesn’t mean that we should only create when the conditions are absolutely perfect – if we waited for that unicorn of circumstances we’d never get anything done. But we can set ourselves up for a more favourable outcome by knowing when our creativity is the most free-flowing.
Accepting your own creative cadence
So a friendly suggestion – if you’ve been feeling a bit stalled lately, maybe you don’t need to search hungrily for more inspiration, maybe you don’t need to pry into somebody else’s routines. Maybe, instead, you need to reconnect with your own creative cadence and invite more of it into your workflow.
Ask yourself if how you’re creating is how you create your best work… not when somebody else says it works best for them or should work best for you.
Do you create best in the early morning, the unearthly hours like me or somewhere in between?
Do you feel a need to make something every day or is once a week enough to be fulfilled?
Is there anything standing in the way of your creative cadence that you can change or work around?
Are you fighting it like I was and, if so, why?
And remember, what you need likely varies depending on what your focus is – for example, my writing rhythm is very different from my photography rhythm.
Onwards we go
Having this realization doesn’t mean that I’ve all of a sudden become a writing machine or that it’s been an easy thing to accommodate. Adjustments had to be made so all of my responsibilities could fit together, as well as an appropriate amount of sleep. And I don’t write every single night. But this isn’t about turning a rhythm into a rigid routine – it’s about giving yourself the opportunity to take action when you feel most imaginative.
Line by line, I’m slowly recovering my voice and my lust for putting beautiful words together in beautiful ways. I’m learning to pay closer attention to the surge-like presence that storms in late at night, prickling like a memory that I hadn’t realized I’d forgotten. And, most importantly, I’m letting myself soothe that sensation the only way possible, by getting up, saying hello to my creative cadence and writing.
May we all tap into more of what works best for us this summer.
Keep creating wildly,
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