I think that every creative person goes through intermittent periods in their life when they look at the daunting blank of the canvas before them and feel utterly paralysed. I’m sorta still there now. I’ve been there over the last two weeks!
Very often I’ve thought that being unable to write must mean a cessation of your creativity, a time when you’ve genuinely got nothing to say, no narrative left to create anymore. I’ve read more oftten and on more varied platforms than I care to list that this is when you should step back, do other things you love till you feel fired again to go birth thoughts and ideas and clothe them with the frivolity of wit and feel ready to set them free, unrestrained….
I’m passionate about a lot of things and am usually someone who has ideas, a lot of them..most of which I know might never lend themselves to more than a paragraph in print! They’d probably end up dividing the world into two sides of an argument (very Tolkienesque, I know) and in my writer’s fantasy, everyone would fire up their laptops just as they’re hit with a new post notification and in a 90 second ad capsule, converge on my post with cups of cocoa and carefully considered teas!
*Ahem* Uncanny just how much of a resemblance that bears to real life! ;P
Over the last week, I’ve had to rethink my inertia when it comes to my creativity and realise that it’s not that I have nothing left to say but that everything that I do want to say seems raw and painful. (For those of you who regularly read me, you know I’m moving…again! ) I see myself standing at the brink of another big change, a few more strange roads, a new house to call mine and make a home of. Children to settle into a new school and new friends – whose lives we must weave ourselves into gently, without disturbing their established ecology! Sure, there is a rush of excitement, a chance to start afresh – new beginnings are positive too! But largely, I’ve lost my voice to the call of this challenge, to leaving behind old friends, laughter, the security of an established life… again!
I so often hear about writers/bloggers who swear by keeping a diary with them to note down ideas, sentences, inspiration for them to revisit later and heaven knows I’ve tried that, and like all things in the bag of a mum of two young girls, it finally ends up littered with cookie crumbs, the home of softening, last flakes of a bag of crisps, dampened by used wet wipes after ballet and swimming. And the once-gorgeous Moleskine begins it’s adagio into the seventh circle of hell!
I’ve recently had a few days of turning up at my desk and blankly staring at a screen before I decide to arbitrarily scan Twitter (I’m not much of a Tweeter/Twitterer (?) so my peppered interaction is often the result of an extraordinary delightful day or quite likely the converse) and then going on to browse sales I would never succumb to! 🙂 I’ve also realised that looking for inspiration to break out of a slump is generally not to be found on Twitter (Pinterest, maybe- for some), but Twitter made me want to run and hide! The one thing you don’t need is to see how well everyone’s doing the one thing that seems to have bid you so long. If you’d take my advice, stay off all social media for a day or two if you don’t feel like the “King of the World” when it comes to your creativity!
In all my searching and thinking, the one thing I realised was that there wasn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Here’s what worked for me and I hope will help you in some small measure.
- I read. I went back to parts of old books that I’ve loved and that’ve meant something to me over the years (the kind that have paragraphs you want to highlight, or if you’re a complete saddo like I am, do highlight so you can come back to it sometime!) I re-read them and smiled, cried, felt inspired to create again, to write how reading that made me feel.
- I’m a bit obsessed with music so I made a playlist and listened to music that’s new to me, that I don’t have any real history with. I also listened to music I have a deep history with and the both of them helped get the groove back, I decided I’d engage every sense I can till I know I can face the empty screen again and know that I have something to deliver. I owe myself to deliver on the one thing I love doing most.
- That’s another thing that helped, making a commitment to myself to get over this creative slump! It’s daunting when your entire being is racked with self doubt. You stand convinced that there is no place or use for your thoughts, your contribution is negligible if at all, and everyone, including your next door ‘tweenager ‘ probably says it better than you! The self negation is extreme at times! (Helped knowing that Coleridge felt it too, and Susan Sontag – one of my favourite authors). Telling yourself that you understand that you need a break, but you’re going to be back by a certain date has more of an impact than you can imagine. Choicelessness is often a great way to get things done 😉
- Sometimes your mind won’t let you write something that it feels is unauthentic, especially if you’ve got “real” issues on your mind. Creative people know intrinsically what they want to say and if you can’t for whatever reason address that -maybe the story isn’t even yours to tell – you find it impossibe to settle for the second best that you feel “allowed” to write. Take some time off to make peace with whatever you’ve got to shelve for the moment. Maybe write it on paper or on a Word Doc and after it’s out of you, either click delete or save it if you think you might like to read what you felt. I wrote to a friend I trust with all my heart. It was raw, it was real, and most importantly, it was dead honest. And even before I got a reply, I was better and could miraculously compartmentalize again. There are things that we would love to write about, “blogging gold” as a more accomplished blogger called it- but for myriad reasons, we never will. That’s just part and parcel of our creative journey, and rightfully so! Don’t be afraid to change your plan, if one idea won’t play out, work on another. Plan B doesn’t have to signify a lesser alternative. Don’t force it, you’ll end up with something you’d be embarassed about in time to come. Trust me, I’ve been there 😉
- Cook, bake, craft…whatever you enjoy that’s removed from your writing. Finish something. I’m usually guilty of being very harsh on myself because I’ve left so much unfinished in my life – half started projects that I’ve tired of or lost enthusiasm for; a half written second story! Taking something to it’s logical end makes me feel, somewhere subconsciously that I will /can come through on things! My writing will not be another bullet point on my unfinished list!
There’s a good reason that you feel what you do when you’re all clogged up in your head – it’s a call to learn to trust yourself, be gentle and kind to you. Your subconscious is trying to say something by being uncooperative! You won’t find your answers by incessantly searching Google, you won’t find YOUR fix in a random list that might work for 7/10 people. The biggest favour you can do yourself is realise that maybe it’s time to shut that laptop, mute that smartphone and finally listen to the you that you’ve been so desperately searching for!
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