Tag Archives: self care for writers

Welcome to 2014!

Writer Friend asked me yesterday what my creative plans for the coming year were. (He means to finish the last draft of his novel to his agent’s satisfaction.  Good luck to him, I say.)

Me?  Well, I just stared at him with my lower jaw on my chest.

Plans?  Creativity?  Ideas?  Hell, even original thought?  I beg your pardon?

Let me explain:  Mother-in-law (henceforward referred to as Mother) lives with Aunt-in-law (henceforward referred to as Aunt).  Mother has dementia.  Aunt is profoundly disabled by arthritis.  Aunt is Mother’s carer.  Just before Christmas, Aunt fell on the stairs and was rushed to hospital with suspected broken neck. Cue care crisis.  Luckily, neck was not broken. Result, however, was several days in hospital for Aunt, meaning Mother had no carer.  Husband and I, and rest of family, rushed the three and a half hour drive to take over care.  Aunt comes out of hospital, still needing 24-hour care.

Its a mess.

The upshot of all this is that we spent Christmas nursing, so effectively Christmas didn’t happen.  For ten days, my brain was occupied thusly: 90% firefighting care/nursing issues, 10% ‘ohmygodhowarewegoingtogetthroughthis???????’

We made it home in time to spend an exhausted New Year’s Eve with dear friends, and to stare blankly at the telly for the Sherlock Series Three Episode One premier last night. (Don’t ask me for an opinion, I haven’t got one yet.  I’ll tell you when I get my brain back.)

I haven’t had an original thought to spare for myself for nearly a fortnight.

So the plans I had for writing a jolly, upbeat, ‘these are my creative plans for 2014’ post for you today are wrecked.  I don’t have any plans because I haven’t had time to think about them.  Of course, I will write one, eventually, when my brain is less bombed, and when I have recovered from the bone-deep exhaustion that only an ME sufferer faced with such an emergency can experience.

Why am I telling you all this?  (Apart from to apologise for not writing something you didn’t even know I was going to write?)

Because this is a real-life demonstration of the philosophy this blog was established to promote.

In a minute, I will put away my laptop and excavate my desk from under the heaps of clutter that accumulated there in the chaos before Christmas.  And then I will open my journal, and pick up my pen, and press the nib to the paper.

And then I will find my way back to myself.

Somewhere, buried under the rubble of the last two weeks, is my soul.  My mind.  My creativity.  And my pen will make a line, a track that will lead me back to my soul, my mind, my creativity.

This is why writing is important.  Whether we write a journal or a story, a play or a poem, that line of ink leads us home to ourselves, over and over again.  And if we follow that inky trail, we will never be lost, no matter how difficult and hopeless things seem.

Happy New Year,

With Best Wishes,

EF

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On Process: The Myth of the Suffering Artist

Chatterton 1856 by Henry Wallis 1830-1916(Henry Wallis’s painting of  Thomas Chatterton (20 November 1752 – 24 August 1770), who was an English poet and forger of pseudo-medieval poetry. He died of arsenic poisoning, either from a suicide attempt or self-medication for a venereal disease.)

I was going to start this post with a list of all the Creatives who have damaged themselves for the sake of their art.  I lay in bed the other night, trying to compile a list of them.  There were a lot, and those were just the ones I could come up with at 3am!

And why bother?  We know who they were.  We know the names of Rothko, Hemingway, Woolf, Pollock, Kerouac, Kinski, Dylan Thomas, and so very many others.

We conveniently don’t notice the ones like Grayson Perry, and Tracey Emin, who credit their art with saving them. (I’ve made links to autobiographies here, and I encourage you to read them, as they are enormously inspiring.)

We certainly don’t remember the millions of artists who, over the course of the last two millennia, have lived happy, healthy and fulfilling lives as well as making art of all kinds.

You don’t have to suffer in a garrett to be an artist.  You don’t have to drink yourself to death, take drugs, cut yourself, starve yourself, tolerate life in abusive relationships, live in squallor or destroy your health.  That is not what an artist is.

An artist is someone who makes art.

(Whatever kind of art that is, from writing to painting to dance.)

Just that.  Nothing else.  Just that.

Creativity is the greatest healing force in the Universe.  I know this because I have seen it and felt it for myself.  When you begin to create, you end suffering.  You will feel better.  I promise.

And yes, it will be frustrating at times, and maybe you will cry your way through every chapter, every linocut, every sculpture, every pas de deux, as you work through all the difficult feelings that come up.  Because lets not kid ourselves, people who create great art of all kinds are often driven to do so because of their own difficult pasts.

So maybe writing 500 words a day is like getting blood out of a stone for you?  There are ways to deal with that, but remember that struggle often comes from deep hurts from long ago, from entrenched behaviours that stop you being your most luminous self.  And if you write those words, every day, you will get through those barriers, and you will feel wonderful.

I promise.

I know because it happened to me.  And continues to happen.  Every day.

If you think that you cannot communicate accurately to your readers the misery and suffering of your characters without having lived it yourself, I will tell you the secret of how you can do without nailing yourself to a cross.

Three little words:

Imagination, empathy and research.  And the most important of these is IMAGINATION.

Imagine yourself in their place.  How would you feel?  What would distress you the most about their position.  Read up.  Find out how other people felt who went through similar traumas.

DO NOT TRAUMATISE YOURSELF.

Eat well.  Get enough sleep.  Value yourself.  Work at having loving and fulfilling relationships with others. Exercise.  Meditate.   See the doctor and the dentist if you need to.  Use your art to heal whatever wounds you have.  Care for yourself, and your art will be the better for it.  As will you.

Happy Creating,

EF