I have been blocked creatively for the last few months (which explains why I’ve barely made any blog posts for a while). Unfortunately there isn’t a pill that can be taken to miraculously clear a creative blockage, so I’ve had to find a way to muddle through until I could find myself in a place where the words would flow again.
If truth be told, I probably could have pushed my way through it if I really tried… but my heart just wasn’t in it for a while there. I’ve shared my emotional struggles of the past few months previously so I won’t repeat the details again; suffice it to say, finding joy in general, not just in creativity, is often quite challenging (to say the least) after the loss of a loved one (in my case, a good friend who succumbed to breast cancer).
That’s the tough thing about being creative for a living – it requires a connection with your emotions and when said emotions are all over the place, it makes the act of harnessing and focusing your creativity to actually produce tangible work extremely difficult. I’ve had plenty of ideas for the past few months – I have created so many notes full of book ideas (both fiction and non-fiction), I’ve fleshed out story outlines and character profiles for three novels, I’ve created four non-fiction drafts which have all been outlined and now just require the framework to be filled in in order to create the books, and I have nine blog posts in my drafts folder which each consist of a couple of paragraphs that I jotted down before I ran out of creative steam (particularly frustrating for me, as I tend to write these blog posts in one sitting, since I love the creative freedom which comes with writing in an unstructured stream-of-consciousness manner as it’s so different than the process I go through to write a book).
So, in hindsight, it appears that being creative wasn’t the only problem: the bigger issue has been a distinct lack of motivation (which, coupled with a total lack of self-discipline, has resulted in little actual writing and a whole lot of Netflix consumption). Which has frustrated the hell out of me. I enjoy writing – it’s freeing and fulfilling. It makes me feel good about myself to be doing something which makes me happy. In fact, what I have discovered during this blocked phase is that not being able to turn my ideas into actual structured output that I would be happy to put my name to publicly is even more frustrating than having a bit of writer’s block. With a capital F.
One of my past managers once pointed out to me that frustration is a form of anger (I got frustrated a lot in my corporate career – that will happen when you’re a creative person in a non-creative job) and maybe I am a bit angry still about my friend’s passing, if I’m really honest with myself. Ironically, I’m in the process today of writing a chapter in my new book (Mental Illness Sucks! But It’s Not The End Of The World… – keep an eye out for more details as I finish it over the next few weeks) about acceptance and how the five stages of grief and loss (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance) apply to mental illness, and how the stages are not linear in succession (in other words, you don’t just go through Denial in Week 1, check the box on that, then move onto Anger in Week 2, etc) but how they can occur in different sequences and even at the same time. I’ve definitely been in the depression stage as well, which was highlighted to me when I read this delightful description: “During this stage, the individual may become silent, refuse visitors and spend much of the time mournful and sullen” (Santrock, 2007).
Perhaps I need to remind myself that re-finding my motivation and my creativity is not going to happen just because I berate myself (something I’m very good at, in spite of all my talk about mindfulness and being kind to yourself). Perhaps it requires me to simply have a go every day – after all, every little step is still a step in the right direction. And not to forget to be kind to myself if it’s just not working. After all, in the words of a wise philosopher from the 1990’s*, it may not happen overnight, but it will happen.
*Thanks to NZ supermodel Rachel Hunter for that one, from her 90’s Pantene shampoo commercial. For those too young to remember, the 1990’s was an innocent time when we sourced all of our philosophical wisdom from beautiful people with white teeth selling things. Not unlike now, really.