The creative process is mysterious. Ideas can spring from anywhere and at any time, like a deep pool bubbling up inside us when we least expect it. Sometimes though, the flow of good ideas can become stuck in the debris of life. When this happens, it’s important to recognize it and to take a break. This can be as simple as taking a walk around the block or a much needed vacation. Or it can mean leaving a detrimental situation.
Some time ago I was working a challenging job in a highly competitive environment. While I had always enjoyed writing and had a reputation as a strong performer, I couldn’t seem to do anything right. I was scolded so often in front of my teammates, I stopped contributing my ideas for fear of being made to feel stupid. I watched as fellow coworkers were let go due to “performance issues.” I felt small and useless and dreaded going into work every day. Why should I try, when everything I attempted turned out wrong? Something that I had always enjoyed seemed difficult, even impossible. I lost all motivation and will to succeed. I began to doubt myself and my abilities.
When I got home each day, I was so tired, I had no energy for anything except to watch T.V. and sleep. My health suffered — I gained weight; my hair fell out. At night, I continually dreamt that vampires were sucking my blood. In the dreams I would hide, but they would somehow sense my presence and find me.
Still in my heart I knew that it was the situation and not me that was the problem. I searched diligently and soon found a new job. Slowly and cautiously, I felt the stirrings of creativity reignite inside me. Like a spring thaw, the ideas began to flow again. I began to collaborate, and those I collaborated with appreciated my contributions. I rediscovered the joy of writing and was soon recognized for it, even receiving an award for a campaign I helped to develop. With a new found boldness and determination, I challenged myself in my personal life and succeeded in writing my first novel.
Don’t give up
I hope I never have to work a job again that literally sucks the creatives juices from me. But if I do, the important lesson I learned is to NEVER EVER GIVE UP. We must listen to the tiny voice inside ourselves that knows our truth. It alone knows what we are capable of accomplishing. If we don’t believe in ourselves, it will be hard to convince others of our true potential.
There are many famous examples of this. No one appreciated Vincent Van Gogh in his lifetime. He only sold one painting: “The Red Vineyard at Arles (The Vigne Rouge).” Despite the lack of recognition and sales, he kept on painting, producing more than 800 paintings that are now considered masterpieces. The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter was rejected so many times that she finally decided to self-publish a limited number of copies. The book has now sold more than 45 million copies. Zane Grey was told to give up as he had no business being a writer. Thankfully, he believed in himself enough to keep trying and the world now enjoys some 250 million copies of his books in print. Stephen King threw the beginning of his first novel, Carrie, into the trash can. It was retrieved later by his wife Tabitha, who encouraged him to finish the novel. He did and the book sold millions of copies, launching his career as the king of horror.
For writers and other artists, getting “stuck” is all part of the creative process. Although these times of dryness can be difficult, if we work through them, we can return to our work recharged and re-energized….and maybe, we will be just in time to produce the world’s next masterpiece.