My counsellor told me a story:
A man was asked at a conference to come up onto the stage, where the speaker had set a single chair in the centre.
‘Try to pick up the chair ,’ the speaker said.
The man picked up the chair.
‘No, you’re not getting it,’ the speaker said. ‘Try to pick up the chair.’
The man picked up the chair again.
‘No, you’re still not getting it. TRY to pick up the chair.’
The man put his hands on the chair and then, in a flash of inspiration, he understood.
Because TRYING to pick up the chair is not the same as picking up the chair.
If you TRY, you never actually achieve the action. You just TRY.
Or, as the venerable Yoda said, in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’:
Try not. Do. Do or do not. There is no try.
(I had that on my door at college. I don’t think I understood it then. Now I do, I really, really do.)
This wisdom has really been banging on my door today, as I struggle with a cold, coming on the back of a bad spell of IBS and ME/CFS. I am busy TRYING. Trying to get better. Trying to feel well. Trying to cope with the housework. Trying to write.
Sometimes you have to recognise the wisdom of ‘Do or Do Not.’
Lately, I worry that this blog has become more about illness and less about creativity. More about my TRYING experience. But I think it really is an important lesson to learn for creative people. We push ourselves and push ourselves, driven by expectations and perfectionism and Gods-know what demons we have inside us, deftly planted there, no doubt, by our loving parents. We dance the dance of the OUGHT-hogs. The SHOULDS. We are so busy forcing meaning into our lives as creatives, as Eric Maisel ill-advised (IMHO), that we pulverise our souls and our bodies into gibbering wrecks, terrorised by all the goals we fail to achieve and the standards we are incapable to meeting. Books about how to write invariably advise the student that they have to write every day, no matter what. I don’t think thats healthy or, frankly, practical. Of course, it helps if you can. A lot. But seriously, who can write when their child has been up all night vomiting, or they have just received a redundancy notice?
Sometimes you have to treat yourself with loving kindness. Sometimes you have to lower your expectations, and maybe even give in to the avalanche that Life has dumped on your head. I have been talking to several friends who are all struggling with ill health this week, recovering from cancer treatment or at the end of a difficult pregnancy, or even in bereavement, and I truly believe that this is something all of us needed to hear.
Sometimes you are allowed to stop trying.
Sometimes its good to stop trying.
And then, when you have given yourself a break, a rest, a time of wound-licking, you can get up and go and do what it is you need to do.
MInd you, I have probably just proved myself wrong by writing this blog post, because I’ve spent the last six hours lying in bed groaning, absolutely convinced that I couldn’t write anything today. So there you go. Take from that what you will. Just promise me something?
BE KIND TO YOURSELF