Despite all the disruption and the chaos, last week’s snow was a gift. Where we live, days off school because of the snow are rare. So over three glorious snow days, I set aside my writing plans and enjoyed some precious moments with my kids: building snowfolk, taking long walks, being pounded by snowballs, making crap slides for sledges down garden steps (in the absence of hills). Making memories. On Friday night, as the final flakes of snow fell, my eldest son and I ran barefoot in the garden and then took a midnight walk along the track near our house. Magical.
For once, I was enjoying the present, forgetting the past and not worrying about the future. (Except I did worry a bit. I worried this might be the last time we’d play in the snow together while they were still at school).
Then came the thaw. The rain and the slush. And with it, the realisation of the backlog of writing that I didn’t do. And with that, anxiety and frustration. In the space of a day, I went from the bliss of now, to the stress of tomorrow, of didn’t, of should have and of what-was-I-thinking?
By Monday evening I was so wound up I could see my own arse when I looked down. My mind was spilling over with not-done tasks and the frantic need to edit to meet my (self-imposed, probably unrealistic) deadline. Thoughts couldn’t form properly, the writing suffered and eventually a stress headache brought about some enforced time out. That’s when I thought, what the hell am I trying to prove?
I’m currently reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, a 12-week programme to unlock creative potential. In Week 3, which is where I’m at, we are told to expect frustration and anger (so far so good) and to also look out for evidence of synchronicity. Well…
That night I had a message from my friend and fellow blogger, Gemma, creator of howtomakefriends.co.uk, who asked if I’d like to get involved in her latest campaign encouraging people to ‘make way for all your ideas and dreams with a spring clean’. On the website, Gemma says: ‘…detox your mind of things that don’t serve you for instant happiness and freedom. Pick three things that have been causing you unhappiness, stress or negative vibes and banish them from your life.’
For the next day I mulled over what I could possibly give up or banish. Then this morning at yoga, the post-practice message was this:
‘Happiness is not a goal. It’s a dividend. What will make you happy that has nothing to do with ego, image or status? Purpose is not a task. It’s the way you choose to live your life. Finding your purpose can become your purpose until you find your purpose. What three things are you doing regularly that don’t serve or support your vision, calling or purpose.’
That was all the synchronicity I needed to come up with my three. From now on, it’s bye bye to:
- Guilt – aka the parental curse. I know I’m not the only one who feels guilt over all sorts of stuff: for writing, for not writing, for not cooking meals from fresh ingredients every night, for getting annoyed, for being a pushover, for giving in, for giving up, for not giving up. Aargh, it’s exhausting. Like its pointless cousin, worry, guilt is a wasted emotion that serves no-one and is only detrimental to the person feeling it. It’s also one of those irritating involuntary ones that lingers, hanging about and waving at you from time to time to remind you of its perpetual presence. It’s a tricky one to banish outright but I will endeavour to be aware of it and ask myself why.
- Self-flagellation – from a lot of the writers I’ve spoken to, I think we could all benefit from a little self-care. Stop beating ourselves up for the things we haven’t done and start showing a little appreciation for what we do achieve. We’re doing our best. The journey is as important as the end product.
- Worrying about being judged – if guilt is the parental curse, the fear of judgement is surely endemic amongst writers, or in fact anyone who chooses creative expression as their life focus. Of course we are going to be judged. As humans, that’s what we do. We judge others, others judge us and we all make comparisons to one another. Unless you are the most self-assured being on the planet, this is how we navigate our lives. The trick is to not let that judgement cloud what we do – I do this all the time and this is probably going to be the hardest one of all to let go. But, in accordance with No 2, it’s a work in progress. I’m doing my best.
If you’re overwhelmed, stressed, anxious and your creativity is suffering as a result, then try this as an exercise. It might not work for you, but even the distraction might help.
Another book I’m reading right now is Russell Brand‘s Recovery about the 12-step programme that he followed to overcome drug, alcohol and sex addiction. It’s a fascinating read, especially if you’re a fan of his flamboyant and eloquent style of writing, and the advice and guidance can be applied to all kinds of personal issues, however insignificant you might think they are.
Thanks for stopping by and thanks for reading. If you’ve got any comments or would like to share how you overcome creative block or where you get your writing inspiration, I’d love to hear from you.