You Have My Permission To Plan And Live Your Perfect Creative Day, So What Are You Waiting For?

July 13, 2010

I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities. • Theodore Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss

One of the students in a high school alternative program I taught in once looked around the classroom and said, “We’re all just a big old bag of idiosyncrasies, aren’t we?” I was pleased for two reasons: first of all, she’d chosen idiosyncrasy as one of her words of the week and had now used it correctly in a sentence, and second, because she was beginning to recognize one of life’s realities, that no matter how alike we may appear to be on the outside, each of us is an individual.

I thought about what this student said recently during another class I’m teaching. As homework, I asked students to design and live their perfect creative day. They were also asked to “capture” their day in a chewing gum box I provided thanks to Orbit® Mint Mojito, my favorite. I saved these empty boxes all year long, preparing for this assignment. Just in case you needed confirmation, teachers really are crazy.

Students shared stories of days with their children and partners and relatives. Boxes were turned into dioramas of Crater Lake and a beach in France. They held pictures and shells and rocks and other artifacts. Each story was different and yet each revealed a common theme, the desire to connect with space to refresh the mind, to forget the rush, to have permission to take time for delighting yourself and the others about whom you care.

One student told us that she hadn’t wanted to do the assignment. As a teacher and new mom taking graduate classes she had little enthusiasm for thinking about a perfect creative day. She pinned the box to the refrigerator with a magnet to remind her of this undone task. Her husband asked about it and when she told him why it was there, he got very enthusiastic. He took a day off from work, they took their baby to daycare, and they spent the day together watching movies, eating pizza, and luxuriating in the kind of coupleness that can get lost in parenting.

Another student talked about how much she enjoys having people over for games and barbecues. Her ideal creative day would be spent surrounded other folks. It energizes her. Her words reminded me of that other student years ago, the one who talked about idiosyncrasies, because although I love teaching and get endless energy from interactions with an enthusiastic class, my ideal creative day would be spent with no more than one other person, and it would be enough to be comforted by that person’s presence and only sporadically interact. I need time alone.

I need time to think. To write. To read. I like to wake up early in the morning so that I can do these things. I do not want to leap from bed and greet the day. I want it to arrive languidly, with reality seeping gradually into my being as I am gently drawn from the world of imagination into the daily whirl of accomplishment. In my ideal creative day, that segue into the daily whirl wouldn’t have to happen and I would be free to go wherever I wanted without obligations. But I wouldn’t plan anything. I’d go where my thoughts took me.

Here’s your home•work for today or whatever day you happen to read this: Design and live your perfect creative day. Store it in the gumbox of your mind and revisit it often to remind you to do this again. And again. And again.

I remembered a story of how Bach was approached by a young admirer one day and asked, “But Papa Bach, how do you manage to think of all these new tunes?” “My dear fellow,” Bach is said to have answered, according to my version, “I have no need to think of them. I have the greatest difficulty not to step on them when I get out of bed in the morning and start moving around my room.” • Laurens Van der Post



  1. I have always had a hard time relaxing, perhaps it is the way I was raised or is simply who I have become over years. The more jam-packed my schedule is, the better I feel, the more I accomplish and the easier I sleep. However, over this past year, I have, for the first time in my life, craved to pass a day completely and entirely by myself. I want a day that is full – full of things that I want to do, for me. So here goes, see you later!

    I wake up whenever my body feels ready to- not because of an alarm, the cat scratching at my door, or the nagging of responsibility swirling in my brain. I stretch on my deck in the sunshine, listening to the birds. I make my favorite breakfast: hash browns, bacon, and French toast, topping it off with fresh squeezed orange juice and a chili-cinnamon hot chocolate. I grab my journal and slow my mind enough to write about how I truly feel. I load my dog in my car and drive out to the coast, to Gold Bluffs beach. I hike with my pup and my camera, and a backpack full of gummy worms, water from a natural spring I find on the way, a turkey sandwich with everything on it, and a book of poems by Pablo Neruda. I walk through the Redwoods until the trail leads me to the black sand shore, and I lay on my back, close my eyes and let the last rays of the sunset wash away anything but stillness from my mind. I fall asleep smelling like campfire, smores and a refreshed me.

    This is my perfect creative day, and some version of this will always be. I can’t wait to live it. This day (well okay, maybe 20 of these days), is exactly what I want and need to understand how truly incredible this year has been.

  2. I love all of this and I hope you get to live it sometime soon–but I especially resonate with the line “I fall asleep smelling like campfire, smores. . . . .” since it evokes the memory of camping for me, one of my favorite space-creating, creativity-nurturing activities. W_OZ

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