A place for creatives to thrive

In strength training, each exercise is completed for as many reps as you can do while not exceeding about a 7 out of 10 in exhaustion, sensation, or breath.

It's universally understood that you can't walk into the gym, lift a weight, and watch your muscles grow. Yet this is the mentality a lot of us bring to creativity.

The desire to sit down, practice a craft, and feel a sense of accomplishment at the tangible progress you're making is understandable.

But like strength training, building our creative muscles takes time. And the most significant progress often happens by simply continuing to show up and move forward.

I tend to avoid creativity when it feels like work. If it doesn't come naturally, the task is overwhelming and imposter syndrome kicks in.

But if a kettlebell is too heavy at the gym, I grab the lighter one.

There's no internal narrative jumping in to tell me I should be stronger. Why would I be? It will take time and fuel for my muscles to grow.

One of my classes this semester in music school is piano. Week after week, I have sat down at the piano expecting to learn the song in a couple hours.

What actually happens is I learn the song in parts, memorizing sections as I practice. And there is a limit to the amount of practice I can do.

I used to consider this a personal failing.

Then it occured to me: what if I treat learning piano like strength training?

I show up and practice my set. I recognize that I can perform about 7 reps before needing to rest, then I do another 7, rest. I can do 3-4 sets, maybe even more on a really good day.

But at that point, shouldn't I try something harder?

For piano, this looks like sitting down and practicing for about 15-45 minutes, which leaves room for me to get absorbed in the task.

After, I ask myself what would feel like a reward. This might be heating up some tea to have with cookies, taking my dogs outside for a fresh air break, laying in bed for ten minutes and resting my eyes, or mindlessly scrolling Instagram — some small way of refilling my cup and releasing any tension I've built.

*I don't, however, start another task — that's a recipe for disaster with my neurodivergent, sensory-seeking self.  

Then I do another 15-45 minutes. Some days, I really don't feel the oomph and I complete one round of 15 minutes. I still managed to practice that day and I consider this win equal to practicing for two hours — just like I celebrate showing up to the gym whether I'm able to lift heavy that day or just make it through.

When you want to tackle projects that have felt too overwhelming or push through a creative block that won't budge, how can you take the pressure off of yourself?

What does a marriage of work and play feel like?

For me, it's being my own biggest cheerleader. It's refusing to abandon any part of myself, including the sticky emotions that feel like a sweltering tsunami. Even this is my love on fire, looking for a hearth to make home.

And I must be a home unto myself. A warm place where I can welcome others.

Journal Prompt

What gifts do you offer your community? Do you withhold your gifts more often than you want to? How do you offer them? What do you expect AND desire in return? How does desire feel on your tongue? What about in your belly? What do your desires tell you about the life you want to live?

Favorite Things

Thank you for reading. I am wishing you a lovely week,

Conner Carey

Psst. The first Creative Accountability Challenge has officially begun! The link to creative focus sessions will go out tomorrow and doors will close at that time.

The twice weekly 2-hour focus sessions will be hosted in Pacific time on Tuesday (4pm-6pm) and Sunday (12pm - 2pm). I would love for you to join us.

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