When Creativity Stops

{by The Inspiring Bee}

You might have experienced a flow of creativity in the past. Ideas were popping. Creativity was flowing. And then zilch. Just like that the river’s run dry. Does this mean you pack your bags and fly toward a new career?

Nope. Not quite.

Like anything else, creativity has its ups and downs. Just because you’re soaring on creativity Cloud Nine doesn’t mean you won’t end up in a valley somewhere. Similarly if you’re stuck in a creative rut, don’t give up just yet. You’ll eventually get back to the mountains.

The thing is we only ever hear about the triumph, the success stories, the grand accomplishments. We rarely hear about the failure, the surmounting challenges, being in the midst of defeat.

Most people want to glorify the former and forget about the latter. Either that or like labor, we forget about the pain it took to birth that beautiful baby.

In Jonah Lehrer’s new book Imagine: How Creativity Works he magically says the following. Yes I said magically. More on that later.

“Every creative journey begins with a problem. It starts with a feeling of frustration, the dull ache of not being able to find the answer. We have worked hard, but we’ve hit the wall…”

It’s a normal part of the journey. But as Lehrer points out. Here’s where the magic comes in.

“When we tell one another stories about creativity, we tend to leave out this phase of the creative process. We neglect to mention those days when we wanted to quit, when we believed that our problems were impossible to solve. Because such failures contradict the romantic version of events-there is nothing triumphant about a false start-we forget about them…Instead, we skip straight to the breakthroughs.”

The magical part is two-fold: 1) He reveals the truth no one likes to talk about-that all creative success involves failure. 2) It’s a natural step in the course of creativity.

The answer lies not in doing more work, forcing yourself to become creative or even giving up completely.

It’s in taking a break from finding out what’s next. It’s the unknown that holds your answer.

So the next time you feel frustrated and catch yourself in the midst of a difficult problem, don’t sweat it. The answers will come. Creativity will flow again.

Your biggest enemy toward your creativity isn’t outside yourself. It’s your own negative, critical thoughts and fears that hold you back.

When creativity stops, rest. And rest assure, the floodgates will eventually open again.

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Getting Back Control of Your Life

{photo by The Inspiring Bee}

In life, there is no room for bench warmers. There is no tree with which to hide, no tunnel to escape from, no magic invisibility cloak to help you vanish into thin air.

Perhaps that’s why we lean towards books and movies of fantasy and fiction. When life gets hard, we can’t just disappear for a moment, retreat within and return when we’re strong again. So we watch wistfully wishing we could momentarily catch our breath.

When life gets hard and we’re weary from the fight, the desire to “sit this one out” is great. How do you keep going about your day, maintaining work, chores, your daily tasks when a huge surmounting issue is weighing heavily on your shoulders?

I’ve worn that heavy cape. I’ve felt the crushing pull of not knowing, where you have two choices and neither are ones you would choose. And in that fear, I know that there is only one thing that can help me get through it.

Dig a hole through that tunnel. Find a way to walk through the fear on your own terms. If illness, loss, or some other impending doom is on your way, don’t avoid it, or succumb to the grief the way we’d suffocate under a wave. But find a way to feel like you have control.

For me, this means writing. Only in the process of writing can I completely lose myself to the words. I can forget whatever fear I’m about to face. I can let go of worry. I can forget about the worst scenario. Surfing the internet won’t help. Talking to others may not help. Sometimes the only thing you can do is to let go into the thing you truly love and find joy in this moment.

If you’re in the process of facing yours fears and you’re sick with worry, I hope you will carve a space for your gentle soul. Find a place where you can cry, where you can feel the wind on your face, where you can hold yourself with love and light and remember that regardless of the darkest shadows that want to linger, weight on you and drain you, you can CHOOSE how you will live your life. It may be a small choice. It may be choosing to walk instead of drive or draw instead of write. But if we can find a way to take control of what we feel we have no control of, we will again find the strength and courage to keep going.


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What If I’m Not There Yet?

{taken with my iPhone during a mindful moment while walking}

Some of you may be just like me. Working hard, living hard, trying to do everything you can to fit meaning and purpose in your every day. If you’re like me, then you know the anxiety that sometimes comes when you feel like no matter how much you do it’s just not enough.

You may be sitting in the void right now. Waiting for hope to come like rain after a long waited drought.

Whether it’s a job, a home, or someone you want to spend the rest of your life with, I understand that pain of not knowing what to do next. I empathize with the fear that comes from worrying that you’ll never get what it is you really want.

There have been many times in my life when I was unemployed or alone and ample times when I was confused and filled with self-doubt. I’ve been on the road of envy, anger, and jealousy.  Looking back, it’s those times that have taught me the most about having faith. It’s also the moment that prepared me for what was next.

I would never be able to go straight into writing, had I not gotten a degree in Counseling first. And had I not spend a few months unemployed, I wouldn’t have the courage and the motivation to finally go to graduate school.

The pauses in our lives feel like failure. They feel like it because we’ve gotten so used to the constant barrage of activity-our iPhones, iPads, texting, etc. We’ve forgotten that life unfolds in its own time.

Sometimes I need to be reminded of this too and only need to spend time in nature, observing how the season changes, the way birds tease the wind and how the clouds move, to know that our time will come too.

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Confronting the Void

{by The Inspiring Bee}

There will come a time in your life when you don’t know what to do next.

You’ve done all you can to make things work, but you hit a rough spot. Not only that but that rock in the road suddenly becomes larger and deeper. And what at once seemed like a minor encumbrance becomes a vast void.

Stuck in it, you may feel empty, confused, hopeless and filled with despair. Life isn’t supposed to be this way right?

Or it’s not supposed to feel this hard especially when you’ve worked so hard thus far.

But it’s actually normal to feel this way. In fact, if you’re feeling stuck right now, revel in it. There’s a good chance change is coming your way.

<Cue in Flashback>

After college, I felt stuck for awhile. My butt and the floor of Borders were good friends. I went there almost every weeknight reading career and writing books hoping for the right one to drop on my head to tell me what I should do next. It took a few months, but gradually I began noticing signs.

I saw an ad in the newspaper for a class on Health Psychology, a field I had growing interest in. I also began hearing stories of fellow friends and classmates who took the leap and moved to the mainland. After months of hemming and hawing, I finally decided to enroll in graduate school. I got in on a whim having never studied the GRE and having applied a few weeks before the deadline.

But it came only after serious introspection, boredom, confusion and lots of time in the void.

If you’re spending some time there right now, take heart. It will end. Use it:

  • to rest
  • to make sure you’re on the right track
  • to breathe
  • to refocus your energies

It make feel scary right now. You may began to wander into self-doubt territory. And that’s okay. It’s all helping you to get closer to the person you want to be. It may be helping you to increase your patience, strengthen your faith, and push you to finally pursue your purpose. Contrary to what you may think, you don’t know the true reason why you’re stuck in the void.

The truth is you may not even been “stuck” at all.

In fact, you may be exactly where you’re supposed to be.

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