I text my husband today that I’m going to scrap everything and become a carpenter.
It was a giant red flag…
Let’s talk about that post-creation, pre-event slump… please, let’s, because I could die here.
If you’ve ever completed something big (undergraduate degree, Master’s degree, birthing a child (maybe, I don’t know), won an award), if you’ve ever made a creative work that pushed your boundaries a little more, if you’ve ever read Brené Brown’s Rising Strong, you know what I’m talking about.
Let’s focus on what it looks like in the creative process, though.
This is how it goes for me (EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.):
· I piddle around for months not making anything of my own and soaking up all the information and research and good-feel-y-creative-stuff I can.
· I get inspired.
o It’s a whirlwind of ideas on writing, poetry, images, paintings, and more.
· I wait anywhere from a couple of days to months to actually act on the inspiration; using all sorts of excuses that are really just fear of failure or fear of going somewhere from where I can’t return.
· I finally sit down, get some loose framework of a plan, and get to work.
o I’m one of those lucky ones that my current process happens very, very fast and yields a lot of work… but I have to do it.
o This very, very fast is also very, very harmful: the process happens so quickly that the crash is immediate and I have no idea what just happened.
· I spend a day or two turning out crazy amounts of images and attempting to name and discover the conceptual meat while I’m working.
o To some, discovering the concept as I work may seem backwards, but I promise you, there’s concept beforehand that continues to develop as I work, and as a verbal processor… I have to work to discover what I have actually intended—it’s already there, I just have to find what and how it is so that I may articulate it.
· I spam the world with a handful of favorites, I think about pricing them, and getting them on the Web site.
· Then… oh, then…
· I crash.
o The next day, I’m so pleased with my self and my creations; I’m proud of myself for getting in the studio and using all my toys; I’m proud of myself for encouraging my life vein.
o But, I’m afraid. I’m afraid I just wasted days of work on something I’ve already created in a different form; something that doesn’t do or say anything; something safe and natural for me that didn’t challenge me; something no one will want; something no one will appreciate; something no one will ever see…
o And I can stay here for days or weeks or months.
I’m here in the crash now… what I’ve coined in my creative process model as ‘death.’ The death phase is characterized by a complete loss of hope, faith, trust, or inspiration in the original idea and doubt that the concept would have ever delivered. The death phase is where the entire concept, process, and creative journey as a whole go in the trash can (we do NOT recycle here… because there’s no way this thing could EVER become anything else). In the death phase, we lose hope and trust in how we were created, in our creative wiring, in our gifts and talents, our skills and education… there is nothing.
I knew I was here—the symptoms are unmistakable. I want more piercings, I want more tattoos, I spend too much time and money in the grocery store and Target, I end up online perusing (shopping) all of the time, I sleep ‘til noon everyday and am tired at nine in the evening. In the lowest points, I also end up searching job listings for hours on end and digging myself a grave. The worst of all: I apologize to my husband over and over for how I don’t contribute financially, and for how he has to sustain us both with a job that’s not his favorite while he finishes his Master’s degree. I make myself a parasite.
It’s just undeniable, but I won’t pay attention to it until someone else can pay attention to it with me; this is where we get back to my text-confession to my husband that I’m bad at my job and I’m going to scrap everything and become a carpenter (because that’s so much easier…..).
For this round of the crash… I also have an event this week with a project my husband and I have created to engage artists and community in the hard and challenging parts of pursuing a creative career…
I know… I know… It’s just amazing isn’t it?
So, when I would already be reeling from the blow of the creative explosion last week, I’m also reeling from the fear-voice for the event this week. I’m caught in the middle and, seemingly, there’s no escape besides becoming a sales associate again at an apparel store in the mall… obviously.
But, I’m hopeful. I’m hopeful because I actually made myself write about it this time. I’m actually attempting to process what the hell just happened and what is about to happen. I’m thankful for the event this week and how it will force me to engage the challenges of someone else’s creative career (so that I can stop navel-gazing at mine). I’m hopeful because I have a community of people around me that, though they may not entirely understand my work, process, or career, they understand me and support me always.
I’m hopeful because a friend of mine is forcing me back in the studio today (albeit for mechanical processes I use, but something entirely unrelated to my work, which is perfect). Also, the series I created is intended for a submission for a local show with a rapidly approaching deadline, so: I’m thankful for a deadline and an outlet.
In my current phase of life, I’m convinced that this process and journey will never change… that there will always be a creative explosion followed by a crash or death. I’m also convinced that I could handle it better: maybe be less dramatic, maybe know it’s coming and chat through the process with dear friends that get it, maybe put some scaffolding in place so that the fall and the get-back-up are a little more graceful and grace-filled, maybe.
Until I master this ‘graceful and grace-filled’ however, I need to master the life-promise to myself that I am an artist and I will always create and believe in it. Gosh, foundation is key, and I forget this every time.
Until then… I’ll be working in the garage with some wood… but mostly just sitting in the studio trying to figure out what’s happening to me.