Getting it up

The thing about creativity is that unless you make a living practicing your art, it’s easy to deprioritize it. (Note: WordPress is saying deprioritize isn’t a word, but I’m sticking to it because WordPress also says that WordPress isn’t a word.)

On the to-do list you might not even have had time to write today, “make something awesome” would likely fall somewhere near the bottom, after “drop off the kids-prescription-dry cleaning-car,” “write the report,” “attend the meeting,” “reassure the boss,” “pick up the the kids-prescription-dry cleaning-car,” “do the laundry” “pay the bills,” “cook, clean, cry, collapse.”

It’s a perfectly understandable, soul-killing decision to NOT make something awesome. But as day after day passes in this frenzied “I have no time for creative badassery” mode, the muscle that creates your art – your wicked imagination – atrophies. It gets harder and harder to get it up.

So to speak.

I don’t want that to happen to you (or me), so I made a list of five ways to sneak back up on our creative natures. These ideas are small, but powerful… like Altoids.

  1. Unplug.
    Even if only for a few minutes each day, unplug your phone, your computer, your TV, your radio, and every device you have that starts with a lower case “i.” Immerse yourself in your physical surroundings. If at all possible, get dirty.
  2. Take a picture.
    I seriously think cameras are magical in their ability to change our perspectives. Don’t believe me? Look at Marcie Scudder’s rainy day, Jen Erbe’s birches, jb’s kitchen table, my picture of stillness…

    And – bonus! – the “make something awesome” goal is built right into this one!
  3. Do something out of character.
    Wear a kilt or a tutu (or, for me, something purple). Publicly display your affection, throw yourself a surprise party, tell someone in no uncertain terms that what they do makes your knees weak, your head spin, your throat dry… and even with all that, you hope they never, ever stop.
  4. Play.
    Alone or with your lover, your crush, your best friend, your kid, your parents, a perfect (or not-so-perfect) stranger. Do something, anything. Just. For. Fun.
  5. Fuck should.
    For a day, an afternoon, an amazing hour of precious freedom, don’t do anything just because you should.

It may be that the awesome thing you make… is you.



  1. Tricia on January 26, 2012 at 9:38 am


    P.S. I can imagine your title will generate all kinds of search-engine hits. My post on Butt Cakes (my cakes tend to have butt cracks) is still my most popular. I’m sure there’s much disappoint once the searcher finds it’s real cake and not something kinky)

    • j on January 26, 2012 at 2:28 pm

      Ha! The title made me laugh, when I wrote it in the body of the post, so I kept it. I feel a certain freedom over here now that the topic of love is being covered elsewhere.

      I’m booked totally today but tomorrow, I’m going to go check what a butt crack in a cake actually is!

  2. Marcie on January 26, 2012 at 9:48 am

    And I’ll second Tricia’s ‘Amen’! Especially love #5…it’s become the mantra I try to live by. That – and ‘Just Do It’….and do it again..and again after that. Do it everyday until it becomes so much a part of you that you can’t imagine doing without.
    Thanks for the awesome and inspiring post!

    • j on January 26, 2012 at 2:30 pm

      Me too. A version of 5 is on my list of three things that I’m focused on this year. I do an awful lot of things out of obligation, which means I’m doing fewer things that feed my soul or make the world better. More and more, I’m questioning which things I really have to do. It’s amazing, how often I find that I don’t really have to after all. (LOVE your rainy day picture!)

  3. Doreen Cox on January 26, 2012 at 10:12 am

    Since I’m not a young’un anymore, I rely on young-er minds to help keep me tuned into spicier threads of thought. Thanks for spicing up my day with such flavorful words as, “Getting It Up,” “deprioritize,” and, “Fuck Should.” Today is the perfect day for me to read your post and chuckle at myself for getting so caught up in “making progress.” Especially, thanks for sharing your picture of stillness. Heading outside to take a picture!

    • j on January 26, 2012 at 2:32 pm

      You’re welcome! The thing that’s so cool and amazing to me is how often choosing to play (or explore, or dance, or connect) actually winds up making me more productive. It’s the magic of self-love thing again. Filling the well, means there is more of me to give.

      Let me know what you captured on film!

  4. Pat on January 26, 2012 at 10:19 am

    I’ve been trying to get it up for weeks to shoot the flowers in my dining room. This week they’re some drop dead calla lilies of some incredible colors. Last week they were gerbera daisies. My tripod’s all of the way in the car trunk (right outside, not REALLY far away). So many other things to do… Maybe today’s the day after reading your blog. Thank you!!

    • j on January 27, 2012 at 2:03 am

      I want to see!!! Do it for me. <3

  5. Karen L Hogan on January 26, 2012 at 10:25 am

    I had someone tell me, “Do the job you hate, then reward yourself by writing your morning pages!”
    Arrrrrrggggghhhhh! Morning pages aren’t a reward — they are a necessity!
    I think the more we realize that our most important “art” project is creating our own lives, the more we can send “should” to the junkyard of “That which fucks up our lives.”
    And then we will have the grace of everyday living.

    • j on January 27, 2012 at 2:04 am

      Well said. (Though sometimes, I just want to… you know… make something awesome.)

  6. Andrea Maurer on January 26, 2012 at 11:35 am

    Should is a dirtier word than fuck. Here’s a good practice I share with all my clients so they can begin eliminating it from their vocabulary… add a “but statement” to your shoulds and shouldn’ts. So for example: I should go to the gym (BUT I don’t want to.); I shouldn’t eat that brownie (BUT I really want it.)

    Then use what comes after the “but” to reflect a more empowering position that involves owning your decision or making a different one… I’m not going to the gym today (and I’m okay with that.) Or, I don’t really want to go to the gym but I’m going to do it anyway (because I’m so damn awesome!)… I’m going to eat that brownie and enjoy every bite of it. Or, I’d love to eat that brownie but I’m not going to do it (because I dig keeping my promises to myself even when it’s kind of hard.) See how much more empowering that is? No guilt, no nagging self-parenting, just pure adult decision making.

    Should sucks. This post rocks (as usual). XO

    • j on January 27, 2012 at 2:06 am

      “Should is a dirtier word than fuck” <– I am posting this on my board, baby. That is beautiful! As is the rest of your comment. Thank you!

  7. julia on January 26, 2012 at 11:40 am

    Oh, this is perfect, J. I love the list, I absolutely believe that these soul-connecting acts must become a daily practice–otherwise it’s too damn easy to flail around forever.

    You always make me smile and think…thank you.

    Okay, now I simply must turn this machine off and get outside to the sunshine. The sunshine! The sun is actually shining right now!


    • j on January 27, 2012 at 2:07 am

      We had your clouds today, I think. But the sky was dramatic and lovely in an ominous way. If I were you, I’d write a poem about it. Do you take requests? xox

  8. Pam Carlson on January 26, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    Love it, and YES!

    I especially love #4. One of the New Yorker cartoons on my bulletin board is a businessman who’s just gotten off a playground swing, thinking: Another tiny victory in my never-ending quest for fun.

    (If I pass an empty swing [that isn’t a baby swing] I ALWAYS jump on. It’s never let me down as a quick fun-drenaline boost.)

    • j on January 27, 2012 at 2:09 am

      I once tried to swing in a baby swing. I mean once I no longer had a baby-size butt. It’s not fun. Good choice on your part! (Love the image of you swinging away in a park!)

  9. Nancy on January 26, 2012 at 7:45 pm

    WOW. Amen to the post,and amen to the comments here. Karen’s comment especially resonates with me because even when i don’t do “traditionally” creative things like write or draw (ok I NEVER draw) or take a picture or cook something delicious, I try to find some creativity, artfulness and peace as part of the day. Granted, right now I have a new job which means a lot of creativity is happening as my brain rewires for new challenges, but I have always gotten through the more tedious aspects of being an administrator by finding beauty, grace, elegance or simplicity in the mundane (if you believe you can, you can even find beauty and creativity in filing. When I do that, it makes me more creative in the analytical and big picture thinking part of the job.

    And the swing comment, Pam? Me too!

    • j on January 27, 2012 at 2:14 am

      Finding beauty, grace, elegance or simplicity in the mundane is a lovely thought, beautifully articulated. There is magic in ordinary things, for sure. I think as long as you’re not feeling that terrible malaise that can set in when a writer isn’t writing or an artist isn’t drawing, then you’re probably doing just what you need to do. For me, I need to “make stuff” and if too many days pass without my finding any time to make something awesome, I feel impotent (not to beat a dead horse).

      I just made myself laugh. Nancy! I adore you!

    • NM (@echo90803) on January 27, 2012 at 11:17 pm

      Judy, I think this circles back to the fascinating conversation last week, perhaps? I guess I’m a dabbler, not an artist, or, heaven forfend, my art is administration. Gawd, what a thought.

      I have had a quite loud guffaw about your impotence and beating a dead horse….the cats are afraid again. I adore you, too, beautiful soul!

  10. Joanne Marie Firth on January 26, 2012 at 10:33 pm

    I love and truly need this post as a virtual kick in the ass. I’m going to read this and reread it until I gain some focus again. I’ve put everything on the shelf for now until I can figure out what I love and what I am good at. Two things that may or may not go hand in hand. Thanks for the push.

    • j on January 27, 2012 at 2:15 am

      Oh, yes, definitely don’t wait to find out what you’re good at. Be an exuberant beginner! And I am happy to (gently) kick you in the ass. xo

  11. Michael on January 27, 2012 at 7:35 am

    You had me at 5… Well, okay, and 2, but there’s something about rebellious profanity that just makes me weak in the knees.

  12. j on January 27, 2012 at 8:53 am

    And you hope I never, ever stop. 😉

    (7:35?! Who are you and where is Michael?)

  13. June O'Reilly (@LunaJune) on January 27, 2012 at 9:02 am

    wishing to jump across the country to play today :~)
    yes always remember to say FUCK to the day
    throw the lists out and remember what makes you squeal with delight
    I can not pass a playground with a swing without taking a short one… pumping myself high… hanging my head back and closing my eyes and instantly feeling 5 again…. then letting the swing decide when it’s time to stop just drifting into space…
    it is easier for me without children and family commitments pulling at my day, just work and clients

    unplug.. oh yes… took me years to learn how to let the ringing phone ring and know that I can deal with whatever it is later

    grateful and giddy I now head to my day ♥

  14. Something Good « A Thousand Shades of Gray on January 30, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    […] behind the new site A Human Thing, and also the author of Zebra Sounds. Her latest post, “Getting it up” is a really great kick in the pants for […]

  15. Estrella Azul on January 30, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    I love taking photos at those times, and will probably quote you on “cameras are magical in their ability to change our perspectives” 🙂
    THE reason behind my photo challenge for the year.

    February’s suggestions are up by the way. Theme? Different kind of love. I think you’ll like it.

    • j on February 2, 2012 at 10:15 am

      I will head over to see what you have going on later today!

  16. Cynthia Patton on January 30, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    I think we should always fuck should. Shoulds are like the hallway monitors in school. No one has fun when they are around.

    • j on February 2, 2012 at 10:16 am

      No argument here. Always hated those hall monitors.

  17. babedarla on February 2, 2012 at 3:39 am

    here’s my getting it up “kicker”: in 1983 I graduated from Fashion School knowing I wanted to be a writer…at that point I was a poet and i realized that most poets that I read actually made their living teaching, and since teaching was the 7th level of hell to me, I’d better just stick to designing…so, in ’86 I started my own business and never really looked back. Oh,I thought sure I’d write again when I turned old and gray (probably when I retired,after all,I’d have to have something to occupy my nights in the Peace Corps,lol!)(still haven’t done that one yet!) So,here I am 25 years later and guess what? I’ve started writing again! And it feeds my soul like designing hasn’t done for YEARS! I spent the first 3 weeks of the year writing like crazy,awash in excitement and happy, happy, happy! Then I had to get back to work making product for shows coming up, so I set the writing aside,and I’m MISERABLE!!! How’s that for a conundrum: Having to put aside art in order to do art!
    Even writing this has helped…and I probably wouldn’t have had the kick in the butt to write THIS, if I hadn’t read your’ post! So,thanks!!!

    • j on February 2, 2012 at 10:21 am

      Well, then I’m glad you found me! I love your story, and I think a similar thing happens with most artists, since so few of us make a living doing the sort of art we love best. So actors do commercials, and writers write adcopy and musicians play jingles. For a while i wrote web copy, which is not without its creative component. I even enjoyed it… but not like I enjoy my own writing projects.

      Make some noise here when your post is up and I’ll come see.

  18. babedarla on February 2, 2012 at 3:44 am

    Hey,I think the above is going to be the gist of a new blog entry!

  19. babedarla on February 6, 2012 at 4:17 am

    Hey Judy…well,it’s up! Not what I thought I was gonna write about,but that certainly doesn’t matter,now does it?!!
    I’m at Hope ya like it!

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