Riding out the Creative Peaks and Troughs
It’s March. Say what, now?
I’ve said goodbye to the summer holidays, the school term ramped up and my daughter and son went off to grade one and daycare respectively, and I tumbled back into an internet connection and my computer and blogged and updated the site and finished the shitty first draft of Wye River. February was a frenzy.
Yes, it happened:
I wrote the last pages in a local cafe. I high-fived my neighbour, who was sitting next to me on the communal table, and we ordered champagne. I floated to the ceiling like a balloon.
The high was so high. As if I’d finally turned in homework that was six months overdue. As if I’d given birth, again. That nagging feeling that I should be writing writing writing dissolved. The book’s ending sat well with me. There are loose ends flapping wildly and secondary characters’ fates to determine, as well as all the usual finessing and manhandling, but that’s second draft bizzo. That’s a month away, at least. Relief. Pride. Mostly relief.
Time to dust off The Endangered Islands for one last read through. Hadn’t looked at it for six months. Think about finally submitting it.
And then, crash.
Sleepy. Empty. No concentration span. Read the manuscript? Bored with it. Doubting it. What blog? What website? Hello Facebook! Read a book? Barely. Naps. Hello doing nothing at all. Guilt about zero productivity and escalating procrastination. Earbuds in. Mooching around like a teenager listening to new albums from all the artists I’d ignored while in my writing cocoon. Hello evening television! Bingeing on all the TV series from which I’d abstained. Insomnia when my brain refused to shut down. Feeling isolated after months of revelling in working alone from home. Raw. Channelling any restlessness into dawn runs along the river.
A few weeks ago at Planning with Kids, Nicole Avery talked about riding out the peaks when family life gets hectic. She stopped to recognise the busy start-up phases of new initiatives for what they are and to patiently wait for them to settle, while scaling back other activities that demand your time and energy.
It was timely advice for me. It made me take stock of where I was in the creative process. I had to stop and acknowledge I’d just finished an enormous undertaking and that I had to pause and replenish the well.
The Artist Way’s author Julia Cameron writes about ways to access and regain creativity. She suggests ‘artist dates’, opening yourself up to what’s out there, experiencing by receiving, courting inspiration, nourishing yourself with fresh ideas.
After so many months of self-containment, living in a fantasy world in my brain, I under-estimated how much time I’d need to unfurl and top up my creative well. My writing buddy Caroline put it perfectly as I guzzled my third glass of wine and gabbed manically about not being able to do anything constructive: “You’ve just finished your second novel. You just wrote 300 pages. Give yourself a fucking break.”
The impatience has to go. You can’t be a writer and be in a rush.
The guilt has to go. I’ve been disciplined about this for six months.
So, hello to fun forays into writing song lyrics. Hello to the Comedy Festival. Hello to the Australian Ballet’s Faster. Hello to wandering around the city (seriously, the gaps between forays get longer every time) and working anywhere but my kitchen bench. Hello to jotting down ideas for the third novel. More sunrise runs. More sunset drinks.
Time to get comfortable with what feels indulgent but is really crucial to maintaining creativity. It’s as much a part of the process as everything else: the reading, the regular writing, the listening, the observing. Now it’s time for the resting and receiving. It’smy new R’n’R.