Have you ever felt so inspired that your creativity begins to short-circuit? One moment, you are soaring, you feel the immense power and possibility of your passion and your creative brain. You can’t take it all in fast enough. You embrace these sensations, you determine to stay there and to ride these waves, and to risk them washing over you, if that is what it requires to feel so inspired. (“This is the reason it is all worth it...!”) And you let go, you open your arms and heart and mind to soak it all up: you are the thickest, deepest sponge. Your elation increases for a moment, or maybe even longer.
And then, without fair warning, you begin to sink. You muster whatever positivity you have left (“...if I just keep believing!?!”), and you continue the act of letting go and trusting. But you begin to realize you are sinking too far below the surface. It is time to work again, time to put forth effort and go through the motions that have kept you from sinking in the past. The sinking now is worse for the soaring that came before it. The work is harder for the surprise you felt in the moments of simple, effortless, coasting passion. What felt discouraging before now feels cruel; what felt indifferent now feels heartless. What felt vulnerable now feels impossible.
And so the journey - the one that began with hard work, and then sent you soaring into the air with a magnificent payoff - must conclude by presenting you with a reason to begin again. It is all part of the creative cycle - I know this from the many books I have read about writing, from observing my husband all these years as he has devoted his life to his creative gifts, and most of all, from my own ride over these unpredictable waters. It is the risk you take in putting yourself out there. The problem is textbook, but the solution is not. The problem is universal, but the solution is not. We can all share the sensation of our body hitting the cold, hard bottom. But how we get back up is nuanced, personal, and often subtle. The recovery is a matter of personal motivation. What motivates you? I can almost guarantee it will not be exactly what motivates her, or him, or me.
This week has been my crashing down to the ground. My weekend was so inspiring that now, when I am left alone with myself, I am feeling more dubious than when I began. I soared high this weekend in the company of books. When I heard the authors speak about their work, I felt so encouraged, so motivated. I had glimpsed a range of possibility: the realm of creative achievement. They were real people, and they had achieved what I dream of achieving. And I was comforted by their range: how it took some of them ten years and some of them three months, how some of them write full-time and some of them must squeeze their writing in around their ‘real’ jobs. I saw their varied levels of comfort in discussing their work, in speaking in front of others. I appreciated their honesty when they talked about the madness of writing, about the challenges of being blocked and pursuing the answers you needed in order to continue. All of their diversity encouraged me, sent me soaring. I was proud of my beginning.
But how is it that when you go back home to apply the same principles to yourself, you find you are somehow exempt? And all of these thoughts of exemption play back over and over in my conscious and subconscious mind: “You will never achieve what they have achieved.” “You are not like them.” “You have nothing good to say.” “You will never be as good as they are.” “You are not working hard enough.” “You have lost too much time.” I know that the authors would sit and tell me I am wrong. They would understand - they have heard their own cruel voices of doubt and shame. And they would all tell me it is just a part of the process.
But it is my process. Accordingly, I am the only one who can find my answers. Perhaps the answers of others will work for me as well, but they are like the edges of a dress pattern: no woman’s edges are precisely the same. So the answers of others might be a place to begin, but I will have to determine my own edges in order to find the perfect fit.
I sit down to write and I am overwhelmed with the futility of my efforts. I will most certainly fail. If I do not try, then I will not fail. If I try, I might fail, and if I fail, then perhaps all will be lost. But this, too, is not a place to stay. I would never be here right now if I had given into these feelings before. And I believe that a part of our roadmaps to our creative cycles can be discovered in this way: How is it that I even got here in the first place?
Before I grew brave enough to share my writing, I was brave enough to call myself a writer, to begin to speak my ambitions and dreams. Before that, I was brave enough to participate in NaNoWriMo, and to succeed. I was brave enough to practice writing as a part of my daily life. I was brave enough to challenge myself to grow into the person I believed I was meant to become. And before that, I had decided my life was worth saving from the control, abuse, and depression which had strangled my heart and mind for so long. None of these decisions was easy, none of the answers came without risk and a massive, often crippling, fear of failure. But it is this belief in ourselves, these many moments in which we decide to keep going, that redirect us to where it is that we are meant to go at all.
Perhaps, if we just kept soaring forever, we would lose our sense of balance. Our journey would no longer be a result of toil and determination, would no longer be grounded in our deep-seated belief in ourselves. It might no longer be grounded at all. And what would be significant then?
It only makes me feel the slightest bit better to think of it all this way. I still have the journey ahead, to find my motivation once again and to decide that I do, indeed, believe in myself. I only know that it is worth finding my beginning again.
How do you get back to your place of beginning?