When I was in college there was a hierarchy of artsy-ness. The fine artists looked down on the graphic designers, who looked down on the production people, who had to make do with looking down on people outside the art department. Web designers and Illustrators had to float around the edges and hope that no one eliminated their department before they graduated. I could never figure out why the fine arts students were so high and mighty – they were at a state school studying painting. It seemed wildly clear to me that their degree was a complete waste of daddy’s money. It was my opinion that the graphic designers were just as creative as fine artists; we just happened to be practical enough to want jobs after graduation. Such sentiments were far to mercenary for the art department where creativity only had to serve it’s own purpose and things like deadline’s, client needs, and money were all too, too pedestrian to be considered. Which seemed silly to me since even if you became a wildly successful painter you were going to come up against deadlines (we need 12 paintings for your gallery show in September!), client needs (the White House says the portrait can’t be a nude), and money (don’t worry your pretty little head about money!), why not learn how to manage these every day things? Wouldn’t that make you more successful? The resounding answer from the art department seemed to be that such thoughts would stifle the creativity.
And when it came to art, I had no problem shaking my head at their silliness. The only place I allowed myself that kind of indulgent largesse was in writing. I would be out tip-toeing through the tulips of my imaginary worlds for months at a time. But as I have gotten older and more experienced in the craft of writing I have discovered two problems with this. One – the product frequently is not what is needed. Too much wandering down unprofitable by-ways and I come back to the main plot of the story with about 100 pages of random stuff that don’t serve the story at all, but because I’ve just spent months on them, I love them too much to cut. Two – I don’t have the time. I now have a husband, a daughter, and a business to attend to and they all have a legitimate claim to my time. And how is the dog supposed to get any attention if I’m off typing… again? (Hint: He has to look gosh darn adorable.) So, my solution? Schedules and outlines. Those two foes of creativity have become my friends. With a strong outline my writing is faster and more productive than the days when I sat down at the computer wondering what to write today. I’m not sure how anyone else manages (and I’d love to hear other people’s experiences), but I’m hanging my hat on a schedule and an outline.