Updated: Jul 13, 2022
When too many days passed without writing, all of life became a chore.
Literally, chores overwhelmed me, and suddenly, that’s all there was.
More things breaking, papers piling, mini messes amassing until they commandeered every surface. Clutter reigned, the stress of life becoming chronic, unshakeable.
I didn’t know why I let everything else come first. Unworthiness? Perfectionism? A need for control?
Once everything is “settled," I can write.
It seemed like a trivial, nothing thing to write about: What happens to a creative when not creating. But in my life, it was everything. One day, or two not writing, okay. Half a week — the angst simmers into unease. A week or more — nothing in my life is going right. Physical aches and pains prevail, regular stresses morph into insurmountable problems . . . I must do anything and everything to distract myself from the doom that colors my whole life.
Dramatic much? ;)
It’s real in my mind, yo.
The blessing and the toil of the creative. We are imbued with high sensory perception, cavernous depth of feeling and self-doubt alike. We aren’t immune to chores and illness. We have children and pets and dental appointments. Things that take precedence. The landlord dropping off a new fridge, which means devoting half a day to line the countertops with condiments and kale, cleaning the sticky goop under the drawers and praying that all the lemon cubes you painstakingly juiced and froze don’t meet the annihilation of puddledom. A week of midnight feeding stations to trap and escort the roiding feral tom cat to The Humane Society for nut-snipping so it doesn’t impregnate the entire neighborhood. Doing the never-ending and unavoidable mound of dishes one accumulates when making healthy food at home.
In heaven, I’ll eat Chipotle every meal with no ding to my finances whatsoever. I’ll never wash a dish, and my cat will be spry as a kitten forever. I’ll have clear skin, cut abs, a thigh gap and my dreadlocks won’t fuse together. Chores won’t exist and I’ll live for love, and creating. Writing and potting plants that thrive without ever needing to be watered.
I wasn’t afraid of creating or living a creative life.
I am creative. Creativity is me.
I was overwhelmed by life.
Every time I went to Trader Joe’s, I bought a greeting card for a dollar. 10 of them sat in a stack on my desk, each one assigned to a friend or loved one. But food needed to be prepped. The litter box switched out with a new bag, plants propagated for the upcoming garage sale . . . it was time to wash the sheets, and start that workout program . . . I had to get back into daily walks . . . tapping had gone by the wayside, and the batteries in the string lights needed changing. A million pieces of paper required sorting and stowing. It was time to perform a complete inventory of my clothes again, lug a haul to trade-in, sell the rest, donate the remaining . . . the house needed to look perfect for the landlord, so we could keep living here . . . we were the most conscientious renters on the planet, but still, we needed to prove it.
The last thing I needed was to read another book on how to do it better.
I don’t want to read Big Magic, damnit! I want to make my own magic. And it doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be mine.
So what was the real problem?
from the motion picture Bohemian Rhapsody: Jim Hutton: So all your friends have left you alone. Freddie Mercury: They’re not my friends, not really. They’re distractions. Jim Hutton: From what? Freddie Mercury: The in between moments I suppose. I find me intolerable. All of the darkness you thought you’d left behind comes creeping back in.
Hmmm. Even (and especially) the most brilliant and talented among us possess muddy patches, don’t we?
There wasn’t a problem. Nothing was the matter. Life keeps moving forward, even when we slump, slouch, pause and avoid. Distractions loom large and pluck us from our groove. But we aren’t so far off the path as it seems.
This contrast of wanting to be in something and feeling out of it, letting oneself be pulled back to the craft regardless of life circumstances, forgiving procrastination, embracing the need for it at times — to tend to Self, to life, to trivial tasks that clear space for more inspiration or cushion finances so we can create more freely — that’s the challenge and the adventure of the creative life. Letting go of what we think we need to make it, and letting it be what it is for us in this moment. Today, that’s a post. Another, a chapter.
This will happen again, life taking over, darkness spilling in, and then I’ll miss my writing so much, I’ll leave the dishes in the sink and everything stacked and piled and unfinished . . .
I’ll lose myself in the outpouring of feelings that meet the page, knowing that those meant to read them are eager and waiting, and it matters.