Creativity Killer

2010 has not been kind, but it appears to be lightening up. Thank goodness for that. What is about to follow is politely referred to as an over-share, thought vomit that is, frankly, best withheld. However, I want to share the surface level highlights, or lowlights as the case may be, to illustrate why my creative energies are at a low, but building momentum once again.

The year started with promise, Tara turned 40 in January (Lily 3 & me 39). We celebrated with friends and the year stretched before us. Less than two weeks later, I was called home to Idaho. My elderly mother had fallen ill and was not expected to recover. I’ve made two such impromptu, emergency trips this year. Both times, thank goodness, she did recover despite speculation to the contrary, and is still around to torment me on a daily basis. The emotional toll of watching and awaiting the death of a dear loved one cannot be quantified or even properly explained. It is something that must be experience. Something that I wish on no one.

Upon returning home (from the first trip), Tara (she came back a week before I did) discovered our garage was full of mold–the non-toxic variety. Before I could make it home, everything that had been stored in the garage with a porous surface had been carted off to the central transfer, the sheetrock torn out of the walls and ceiling, and the insulation removed. We had two significant water problems. First, the roof was leaking (interesting that the problem manifested itself in the garage as we have a two story house) and the plumbing in the main bathroom was leaking…from somewhere (took me months, literally, to figure that out). A month or two later, the heating element in our dryer went out (still waiting for that part to be shipped. No joke. Apparently Maytag bought into their own hype about never needing to repair their products. Here we are several months later, still waiting, and the $60 used dryer I picked up on craigslist is doing the job that my expensive Maytag Neptune refuses to do.).

After several months, a new roof, complete rewire of the garage, a master bath that is mid-remodel (the new tile will look fabulous when done), and countless hours of frustration trying to figure out how to pay for it all, the load is starting to lift. The walls in the garage still need insulation, not to mention sheetrock all around. The wainscotting still isn’t up in the master bath, along with half the tile in the shower, the sink, the toilet…and the list goes on.

But I’ve gained a lot this year, as well. My mother is recovering and feeling strong at the moment. Knock wood that continues. My house is 30+ years old and, as such, is fickle and prone to breaking. At this point, just about every room has been remodeled. Should be able to avoid any major expenses next year (yes, I’m tempting fate by committing that to paper). I learned that, as scary as electricity is, I’m perfectly capable of adding a circuit breaker to a live circuit breaker box (apparently code in 1978 didn’t require a master switch on the whole thing). I knew I could do the guts of the wiring, but the breaker was a learning experience. Have to say, I’m quite proud of that one.

The one big, overriding lesson? That things can go wrong, but my life is still good. I still have a fabulous wife, three (plus one) fabulous children, and even when things are falling apart, there is still sweetness to be found. Tara and I laughed about how we must be getting old because we didn’t have the energy to truly despair. We couldn’t stop thinking about how good life had been to use, regardless of the tempermental offerings of 2010 thus far.

The one thing to truly suffer during this time? My writing. I turned into a creative shell. Capable of thinking of the idea, but incapable of turning it into more than a notion. I did complete the edits on my latest novel, Indelible, which is due out in December, so that should count for something. Mostly, however, I wished I could write, but generally did nothing about it.

This month, that changed a bit. I completed a short story and submitted it. The editor tells me that it’s accepted pending publisher approval. Yes, I take those four thousand or so words as a major victory. Since then, I’ve completed an outline for a new novel, that I actually like, and started working on one of the scenes.

The point to this little ramble? Well, I’m not sure I can pull it all together in any kind of coherent thoughts, other than I’d like to learn a little moderation in life. I do things obsessively. When I write, I write volumes in a few short weeks. When I diet, I refuse to eat anything that can be construed as even remotely bad for me. When I’m not dieting, I eat everything in excess. And when I brood and generally cluck about my discontent with the state of affairs in my life, I allow that to permeate everything. And that, my friends, is a killer to creativity.

As I said, I’m coming out of it, slowly. Perhaps it’s my mom’s return (and continued stasis) to health. Perhaps it’s that my house feels more done than undone. Perhaps I simply grew tired of the tediousness of my malaise. Regardless, I’m poking my head back out.

In the future, perhaps I’ll learn from this lesson (doubt it). Perhaps I’ll get better at compartmentalizing my worries. Perhaps I’ll remember that I’m better, emotionally, when I write. It’s a catharsis for me, a revelation for the soul when I’m creating, when I can look back at a work and think “I took an idea and created a story, full of life and possibility. I gave it form and can share it with others.” That’s a powerful, heady place.

So this leaves me with a question for you all. What do you do when faced with your own personal crisis? Do you put your creations on the back burner, as I have, or do you power forward, hoping that the negative energy of life doesn’t reach your work? If so, how? What magical thing allows you to flip that switch? Share your insights, please, it could mean all the difference for me if, god forbid, 2011 proves to be equally fickle.

4 comments

  1. Oh, I feel for you! During each of my parents’ declines, I pretty much put everything on hold (except for falling in love, but that’s another story).

    “The emotional toll of watching and awaiting the death of a dear loved one cannot be quantified or even properly explained. It is something that must be experience. Something that I wish on no one.”

    So true and, unfortunately, something we each will go through, though no one bothers to prepare us for it. As my mother lay in the ICU, fighting for her life, the hospital chaplain decided it was the time to talk to me about pulling the plug. I went ballistic and my mother recovered (temporarily, but that’s another story).

    I wasn’t writing then, but I assume I would have stopped (I did stop photography). I’m the sort who can only focus on one thing at a time, so it doesn’t take much to knock me off my stride. I should probably never sign a multi-book contract, but, then again, I’m fabulous under the pressure of a deadline.

    Bottom line is, only you know what you need to stay sane and keep your priorities straight. The one thing I did learn was that whatever decision I made, I had to live with it so that was all what mattered. Not what anyone else thought I should do.

    If you feel better not writing during a crisis, then don’t write (think of it as collecting fodder for future projects). If writing helps you get out from under the crushing burden for a few hours, then go for it.

    What seems to be important is that you know it will come back to you, so congratulations!

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  2. I am much like you in putting my creativity in a box in storage when I’m facing crisis. I was my mother’s caregiver during the five years she suffered ovarian cancer. Photography was my outlet, but when I go back and look at the pictures I took in that time span, they seem flat, missing something, totally uncreative.

    Now, in 2010, I’ve faced a bad year in more ways than I can count, from the downward spiral of my own health to the downward spiral of our finances. I’ve found myself trying to write, but find it lacking, much like my photography did during the time I cared for Mom.

    I, too, hope I can learn something from this year. I have an awesome wife who loves me even with all my foibles. I have adult children who are healthy and wise, although not much wealthier than their mother. I have a kitten that makes me laugh and an elderly cat that loves to cuddle; a roof over my head and a car that runs; food in the fridge and cupboard; and a job I enjoy.

    Even though my creativity is taking a break, my blessings aren’t.

    Glenda

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  3. Wow. Thanks for letting us in on your slices of life. Very good news about your mom. And yeah, s*** happens and piles up and sometimes, your muses see this going on and they think: “Whoa. She needs a break. So we’ll just back off and let her deal with this other stuff.” I don’t stress much if my muses need a hiatus. I just recognize that if I needed to write, I would. If not, then I can’t force that. I’m one of those people who really can’t force the writing. And sometimes, yeah, I’m on hiatus. Other times, I’m writing like a fiend. And other times, life is so out of control with whatever, that even if I wanted to write, I couldn’t. I recognize that, too, and I recognize my limitations as a human.

    Regardless, here’s to your journey and glad to hear things seem to be calming down.

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