For makers and creatives our work is deeply interwoven with our lives. It is not a job that we can leave at the end of the day. Our art is who we are and reflects the emotional place we are in at every given moment.
What happens when your life makes it impossible for you to work?
Whether facing a deadline, self-imposed or otherwise, we creatives are accustomed to ideas and process flowing from our effort and energy. But life crises, the unexpected milestone events that leave us clambering for higher ground, can stop the flow.
In my case there is nothing worse than when the words don’t come. When I wait for the rush of language that so often is my companion at the keyboard and there is nothing, it is a deafening silence that inspires panic and disorientation.
I don’t believe in writer’s block. I have to say that up front. But what I do believe in and know personally is how creativity can be paralyzed when the scaffolding of our lives comes down around us.
All makers and creatives have experienced real life getting in the way of the artistic vision, of the passion project. What new mother hasn’t lamented the loss of time at her easel? What person caring for elderly parents hasn’t felt the distraction from their work? But those are life stage situations that we endure because of love, and while we are in them we tell ourselves that this time will pass. It will only be for a little while.
Sometimes though we are confronted with the greater, more painful challenge when a personal crisis takes us down – I mean takes us down into the pit of despair. The shocking death of a parent, betrayal by a partner or critical medical diagnosis have all been things that have taken down writers and artists I know. They have each taken me down myself, rendering me unable to write, unable to hear the words at all.
This is where the kindness comes in. Kindness to oneself.
At our most sensitive, when we are physically and emotionally beyond collapse, our energy must go into the basics of survival. We must patiently allow the prolific standard to which we once held ourselves to stand down for now. It’s okay to not write today or go to the studio tomorrow.
What I have learned is that our brilliant, limitless minds continue to work on our ideas even when we are not consciously attentive to them. When I have been too distraught even to journal and have heeded the advice of my coaches to instead ease into the discomfort, to take the time to grieve, the language around my pain has come to me at exactly the right time, days or weeks later, in a flurry.
Our art will not stop calling. The talent will not cease within us. We do not lose our abilities even if our raw pain forces healing to light on all of our burners, back and front. Be kind enough to your despairing self to use self talk like “maybe tomorrow” and “it will come when you need it to.” Let your resting mind percolate the ideas that tomorrow will be the capstone chapter on the memoir you always planned to write.
Tell your broken heart the kind and gentle things you would tell your dearest beloved who was facing the same thing. Then one day you’ll wake up with that tender tickling, just an inkling of the creative desire that you feared was lost, and watch as it burns its way through the fog, a flame fueled by kind self-care.
Because it will be back exactly when you are ready.
Write. Your. Healing.