Sometimes it comes up from behind and hits you in the head like a wooden plank.
Like when you get scary results back from a cancer test, or learn your spouse is cheating, or lose your job.
Other times it creep ups on you inch by inch as you are in the midst of being busy.
Like when you wake up one day and realize that you really want to do something different but don’t know what. And that your current work feels hollow, and meaningless. And that you know you have done great stuff in the past, but don’t know if you are capable of doing great stuff in the future.
It is the meantime, and it happens when you leave the comfortable, creative groove of feeling secure in your life and enter into the territory of I have no idea what is going on and I really want to feel better and won’t it stop now?
It can feel really, really awful.
The reason it feels awful is that you have no grounding. You are not producing great work. Your long-term relationships feel awkward. Your sleep is fitful. You want to do something but don’t know what it is. Most people don’t understand it. You don’t understand it. You just want to go back to the way things were in the “good times.” You want to be a Linchpin, a world changer, a force for good. But all you can manage to do is watch reruns of Law & Order.
In the confusion, there is grace
If you let yourself sit with the confusion and sometimes dread, sadness and anxiety, a wonderful thing happens.
You find yourself.
Under the fancy degrees and impressive experience and a stellar community profile, there sits a quiet and unassuming person.
One with the confidence and wonder of a 5-year old. One without preconceived notions of what is responsible and appropriate and without fear of disappointing anyone but herself.
And you can ask her: If none of this frenetic activity really mattered, what would I be doing?
- Who do I really want to work with?
- If I had a dying breath and had to say something to the inhabitants of this planet, what would it be?
- How do I want to spend my limited time on earth?
- Who do I really love? Who really loves me?
Great, meaningful, deeply significant work happens when you really marinate in the meantime.
It is not a distraction from the creative process, it is the creative process.
Khalil Gibran explains this perfectly in The Prophet:
“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.
Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.
And could you keep in your heart the miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;
And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.
And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.”
If you are feeling awkward and out of sorts, take a deep breath and sink into the feeling.
Renewed creative spirit must be just around the corner.