She sits at the desk in her sleek concrete and glass office. Taking a moment to massage her temples she notices that night has fallen. “So much to do” she signs. She knows she won’t be going home anytime soon. Clicking the mouse she opens up a new clock to start recording time on the next client file. “My life is recorded in 6 minutes. Productive work. Productive non-billable work. Admin work. Where is the “me” time? The fun time?”.
While this sounds like some kind of weird experiment, it’s simply the reality of life within a law firm. Time equals money. As you’ve guessed, that woman was me. From paper time sheets to electronic time recording, my entire career of 17 years as a corporate lawyer is reflected in 6 minute units.
I’d always been an organised person so structure suited me. A little too well in fact. As I became more focused on my career, and climbing the corporate ladder, other parts of my life fell away.
I loved to read, but after hours at work reading the fine print of contracts I didn’t want to look at another word when I got home.
I loved creative writing, but legal writing was anything but creative. It’s formulaic and needs to be as succinct as possible.
I loved photography, but I didn’t have any energy left by the weekends (or I was still at work) for any photography projects.
Books and photography were for the holidays.
Bit by bit my creativity was pushed aside by the structured world I worked in. I no longer thought of myself as creative. The worse part was that I barely noticed it happening.
The day my view changed was the day I baked a banana cake to take into the office.
“That was delicious.” “You could sell cakes like that for a living; I wish I was as creative as you”.
I looked at the crumbs of my creation and realised that my creativity was still there, like a bird resting in its cage, like a smouldering ember that needed to be fanned, like . . . well you get the idea.
Did I quit my job the very next day to travel the world, write children’s stories and take photos of exotic locations? No, although that does sound like a wonderful idea.
If I’m being honest, I hadn’t yet taken responsibility for the fact that losing my creativity wasn’t because I was a corporate lawyer, working long hours. That was something that I hid behind so I didn’t need to take a good, honest look at the way that I’d chosen to live my life.
What I did do was get sick. If you’ve read Gay Hendricks book, The Big Leap, you’ll know I met an Upper Limit. There I was staring a different kind of life in the face, one that I really wanted, and I couldn’t handle what it meant to my way of life.
For the first time in my career I was signed off on sick leave. I wanted to get out of London so I journeyed down to Cornwell to a tiny village called Padstow. I stayed in the narrowest cottage I’d ever since and loved every moment of it.
I woke on my first morning with a clear thought, “I don’t want to be a lawyer anymore”. From there my life began to change dramatically.
If you feel you’ve lost your creativity try these five steps:
1.Get Honest – are you using excuses like I did? Are you overlooking your creativity because it’s something that you’ve always been able to do?
2. Start Small – choose an area that you want to explore. Writing. Photography. Knitting. Colouring in. Painting. Sculpture.
3. Start Today – start now. You don’t need to wait until you’ve done a creative writing course to write – pick up a pen and write your first paragraph.
4. Be Consistent – do something every week, every day if you can. I think that creativity is something that we all need more of in our lives. We are connecting with a different part of ourselves where the possibilities are endless.
5. Celebrate – acknowledge the effort you’ve made to begin your journey back to creativity.
Remember not every cake is going to be shared. Not every piece of writing is going to be published. Who sees your creation doesn’t matter; rather it’s the joy that you experience from the creating that is truly worth celebrating.
Share with me in the comments below the way that you enjoy creativity in your life.