Friday, October 26, 2012

Suffocating Creativity.

I never thought I'd ever say it. But I did. 
Two weeks ago. Right before putting on my happy face (or at least for those who saw it, it was supposed to be my happy face) and heading off to a conference to celebrate the very thing I'd just said I didn't want to do any more.
My confession is this: I actually said the following words:
"I don't want to be a writer any more."
Did I mean it? 
Well, yes. I did. And the feeling, as unusual as it was (and somewhat confusing too because 'being a writer' has been my 'heart-thing' for so, so long) lingered longer than to be just a writer's gloom comment. 
So what was going on?
On reflection I think I've identified three things contributing to my despondent confession: depression, fatigue and wordly overdose.

Depression:
I know how you feel.
Depression can almost be standard issue for writers. We tend to experience it in waves and cycles, I think it is part of our creative make up to see and feel the world deeply, and this has consequences. (Please note that if your depression is deep and ongoing then medical/psychological support can be extremely beneficial.) For me I know I need to monitor my mental health; I need to eat well, sleep well, take care of my introverted self which sometimes just needs to soak in silence and stillness without interruption. Prior to my "I don't want to be a writer" confession these factors had been out of balance, especially the introvert-self-care, so I was feeling low. I don't know about you, but when I'm feeling low I need creativity. And that would have been easy to fix if it wasn't for...

Fatigue:
I read somewhere, I can't find it now (don't you hate that?), that fatigue is one of the biggest killers of creativity. For me this is probably magnified. I'm a big sleep person. Always have been. I can't wake early and write (just visit me at 7:15 one morning and you'll see why that is) and I can't write at night because ideas keep me awake. So I have to write during the day - but I have three children. Add to this equation several writing deadlines that ate up every inch of rest time (and introvert recuperation time) and you'll understand why I was tired. 
Writing for me requires (celebrates?) creativity. Normally I'd rave to you about how much I love story, and ideas and thinking up new ways of expressing truth in fiction. But burn me out with fatigue and I just want to crawl up and hide. But hide I could not because I had...


Have you bitten off a bit much?
Wordly Overdose:
Emails, books, social media all crowded around me demanding I think up correctly worded responses and neatly summed up answers. Speak to me on a good day and I'll agree with you about the importance of an online presence, a faithful mailing list, marketing connections, promotional give-aways. But all of these require words, and if words are a writer's commodity - sometimes we can end up broke. Broke and badly in debt.

In the time since I've returned from the writer's conference I've had to work hard to restore a balance to my life and creativity; time on my own, paying back the debt of wordliness with silence, catching up on sleep etc. I'm aware that creativity is gradually creeping back in. But I can't take it for granted. 
Because, after all, I want to be a writer. 

What sucks the life out of your writing ambition? What are the warning signs for you, and how do you recharge/realign your creativity? 




Penny Reeve is a children's author currently living in Western Sydney. This week she hopes to read an Amanda Deed novel just because, watch the passion-fruits grow and enjoy her toddler's company.  You can   read more from Penny at her website, or facebook page. 




16 comments:

  1. What a wonderfully insightful and helpful way you have spent these few words. Thank you for sharing your understanding of yourself and so helping us see ourselves better. I relate even though I'm an extrovert.

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    1. I'd be interested to know what specifically drains the extroverted writer, Jo, especially as it seems for the introverts of us space and silence seem to be so important.

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  2. Yes, us introverts have to be careful sometimes don't we? After the conference I fully expected to come home exhausted and 'peopled out.' But I wasn't, and I kept going with the people and work kind of business. By the time I hit this past Monday I had gotten to the sooky-la-la kind of tired. But a couple of days on my own and I'm good to go again. And yeah, it makes it hard to be creative! (PS hope you enjoy my book, Penny. :))

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    1. Your book didn't even last the week, I'm afraid.
      I thoroughly enjoyed it and even read it while sitting on the trampoline with the toddler, supervising swimming lessons with my 10 year old, watching TV with the husband etc. I haven't read a book that expects to be carted around like that for ages. Thanks Amanda.
      (I read The Game - been meaning to for ages)

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  3. Thanks so much for this very honest blog, Penny. So glad to hear you are looking after yourself. You have a wonderful way with words, so keep on replenishing that creative part of Penny and yes--keep on writing!

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    1. Jo-Anne, you are such an encourager! I'm looking forward to the launch of Soul Friend tomorrow.
      (And don't worry - I'll keep on writing, just might be a little more careful of how I use my time etc) :)

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  4. Hi Penny,
    Thanks for your honesty and wise words. I can relate to 'wordly overdose.' I'd been a bit down in the dumps since returning from the Getaway and released it's partly because I was dropped from that brief interlude in which we were sharing and getting good feedback to normal life, with housework, lessons etc. Found myself saying this morning, "It would be an ideal world if there were as many book sales as dirty dishes."
    I'm glad you're back on track and 'want' to keep being a writer again now.
    Blessings,
    Paula

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    1. Oh dear, it seems like quite a few of us had a little slump recently. But I agree with you: book sales like dishes would be quite nice! There doesn't seem to be much promotional work required to make that stack pile up day, after day, after day, does there?

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  5. Hi Penny,
    Thanks for your lovely post. I think in the modern world it's easy to get too big a dose of what's around us since the world creeps right into the sanctuary of our homes via FB, TV, Computers and the like. A lesson I learnt many years ago was that I need to keep my time with God as the biggest priority of my day and to have a several hours with Him if I could - which helps to keep everything else at the right level. I still struggle with it - because so many other things clamour for my attention all the time. But yes, it's only too easy to get fatigued - and go through the 'slumpy' periods. I have also realised I need to prioritize and say 'No' to many good things or else I get sucked dry.

    So glad all is well with you again.
    Blessings,
    Anusha

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    1. I think, Anusha, that you are on to something when you highlight the need to sometimes say no to "good things". There are so many good things that we can be doing - but we need to keep our eyes and energy out for God's 'best' for us.

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  6. Hello Penny, To be very truthful, what I read here was as if I had written it myself. I have been very depressed for a long time now. I force myself to do everything I do. As an ex Health Professional and as a Christian the last thing I want to do is admit this. I finally did one day to my 94yr old mother on the phone. Immediately she said, "well you are not a Christian then if you feel like that." Next my nephew phoned me and said "he was concerned about me....and I was not in Gods will to feel like I did." So sad when people slam you when your down.
    I am currently with my son in north Queensland as he is not well himself. So I am here to support him, and it is a struggle. Thank you for writing this!! Its a wonderful read and I believe long overdue for many of us. I applaud you for your stance. May God Bless you and yours daily. With love Crystal Mary Lindsey

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    1. Thank you for sharing this Crystal. It sounds like you've been having a really hard time. I think sometimes it is just so encouraging to read through the Psalms - they show quite clearly that God's people have down times. And I am so thankful that it isn't my feelings that determine God's goodness and faithfulness!
      May you have a week this week in which you can see the beautiful God has placed around you. Much love. Penny.

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  7. Hey Penny - having shared a cabin with you at the conference, I would never have thought you were struggling with thoughts like this! Don't let the enemy bring you down. God has given you a gift, and loves you sharing it with others!

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    1. Hi Janet, I tried not to share too much of how I was feeling at the conference because I didn't want to damper anyone's weekend. :)
      Thanks for your encouragement (and good company as a room-mate!). Don't worry. I'll keep writing and taking care of myself so I can. I think it has been a bit of a wake-up call really.

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  8. Late in as usual. But thanks Penny for admitting what we all feel but cover up a bit too well. Yep, lack of rest and too much involvement with "must do" things does it every time. Grey days hit us all and when the downer hits me I tell the Lord "I don't feel like a Christian and I'm not what I should be. I don't feel like I care enough about other people. But Lord thanks for being with me even though you feel miles away. And eventually, when I start taking care, I come out of it.

    Great seeing you at Jo-Ann's launch!Your book stall looked really eye-catching.

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    1. I'm reading a book at the moment, Rita, called Sabbath Keeping, and I think that may have something to say to us involved in something like writing (which can subtly eat into our time and thoughts regardless of the day/time) and ministry. We need to rest - God made us that way, and it seems that when we neglect it (whatever that rest may mean for us personally) we suffer consequences.
      It was lovely seeing your smiling face yesterday too. It was a very special book launch.

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