I’ve been making huge leaps this week, but one of the results has been a deep gloom opening up inside me. The exact opposite of the feeling of exhilaration I SHOULD been feeling when I make massive learning gains with my creativity.
(Did you notice the Bingo! word there – give yourself a pat on the back if you picked out the poisonous SHOULD in that sentence!)
Instead of bouncing around like Tigger on a coke spree, I feel like a sodden blanket.
Because writing is a solitary art. And human beings are social animals.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m the first to admit that I need to be on my own a lot. I like my own company. But there are also limits. If I get left on my own for long periods, I get mournful, bad-tempered, sick of myself, sick of everybody else. I start feeling like I want to stab myself in the forearms with a compass point. This is obviously not a good place to be.
Husband has been out pretty much every night this week, playing sports and meeting up with business colleagues. He has commitments that sometimes pan out like this, and I’m fine with that. But occasionally it means I get a week like this one. I’ve been on my own from eight in the morning till eleven at night for four days on the trot. Thats enough time on my own for me to go slightly round the twist, to over-react to everything, and end up in a grumpy hole. From whence no writing, or anything positive, emerges.
I’ve spent a lot of time struggling to get out of my grumpy hole. “I ought to be able to get over this, I SHOULD have worked out strategies by now to combat this,” I told myself. (There are two Bingo! words in that sentence, can you spot them?.
But then I thought maybe the thing to do was to allow myself to feel the feeling of misery, and then perhaps it would leave. In other words, not to fight against it, but to be with it, and see where it took me. Because lets face it, after 44 years of living with depression, I can safely say that a) the odd blue day is a doddle compared with the major depressions I’ve experienced, and b) I know I get this when I’ve been on my own too much, so maybe I can work out what its trying to tell me.
It turns out that its trying to tell me that I need to get out more.
I get exhausted. That is part of my ongoing health problems, and I need to take account of that, but I also need to accept that one of the basic needs I have is for a change of scene, and seeing people. It doesn’t necessarily have to be conscious socialising. It can be just getting out into town, seeing other human beings in the street in their infinite variety. Maybe two days a week would be good maintenance treatment for me. To get out, to see the world, interract with it. And rest at home the remainer of the time.
(I should probably point out that I live in the middle of nowhere, literally, and I can go days without seeing anybody, which can be very isolating. We are two miles from the nearest village, not a distance I can walk, so it is not like I can just pop out to the corner shop for a natter and some social contact. Given that we can only afford one car, and that Husband’s access to work has to take priority, getting about has to be carefully planned.)
I need to take this awareness of my own needs forward. I’m enjoying my writing so much, but I need to take care of myself too. And that means going in to work maybe a day or two a week with Husband, settling down at the library or the cafe, and writing there instead of at home. So that I see people. So that I have the stimualtion I need.
You may not have the same ‘shut-in’ issues that I have, but I invite you today to examine the ordinary activities and lifestyle factors that help you to be creative in a regular way. Do you need to drink more water, take regular walks, get a new chair because the one you have gives you back ache, and makes you reticient to sit in it to draw or write? Does eating dairy give you sinus headaches so that you feel all fuzzy, and you can’t think straight? Do you need a holiday, a long bath, a place to work where next door’s dog isn’t barking? Maybe your partner could look after the baby an hour a week so you can have time on your own, or perhaps you need to get up an hour earlier so you can be peaceful with yourself before the rest of the family rises.
Spend some time exploring in your journal the basic things you need to operate at your best: good food, 8 glasses of water a day, cuddles, exercise, Whatever your core requirements are.
Now write about the little things that you could do for yourself that would help you to function above just the basic level of proficiency that you explored above. Think about the times when you have been really crackling creatively. What made those times special? Are there factors you could replicate, to recapture that sense of being in the flow? What really makes your motor run? It could be listening to rock music while you work, hanging out at the cafe, carrot cake, more cuddles, or anything else.
A note of caution: The whole myth about artists having to be self-destructive is exactly that – a myth. Try copying F Scott Fitzgerald or Jack Kerouac, and drinking to promote creativity, and I can guarantee what you will end up with is not increased creativity. You will just end up being dead.
All the actions you take should be self-caring and self-nurturing.
I hope that you can uncover some new ways to nurture your creative flow, or maybe just work out how you sabotage yourself with having too much of one thing, and not enough of another, as I do. Writing is a solitary act, but you don’t have to be on your own to do it, as I have been reminded this week.
Take care of yourselves, and happy creating,