I am aware that spring has seen a void in my writing. For most people, it will have gone unnoticed. For the handful of you out there who read my waffle, now that I mention it, you may be aware that I have been uncharacteristically quiet of late. For me, it is different. I feel like the victim of a creative famine; a self-inflicted starvation diet. For some inexplicable reason, I have been denying myself something that I love.
Since the age of five, I have been a passionate story-teller. An assignment in Lower Transition inspired a pudding basined, rosy cheeked little me to write a story. The title was ‘Dott gets Flatt’ and, as the name suggests, it charted the adventures of cheeky little Dott. I couldn’t say whether the double ‘t’ was a spelling error or a youthful attempt at something onomatopoeic, but I loved writing the tale. Dott met its sorry demise when it became a splodge, and could bounce across no further pages.
Obviously, what I wrote in my formative years was not high calibre literature. Nor did it showcase sophistication in language or subject matter. It did, however, give me a taste of how it feels to put pen to paper, and pour my imagination out through my fingertips. From that point on, when asked what I what I wanted to do when I grew up, I would answer ‘be an Actress or an Author and Illustrator.’
I have always written. From in depth holiday diaries of my childhood getaways, letters to pen-pals of all ages, epic messages in cards to friends and family, classroom letters which punctuated shared lessons as a young teen, group emails documenting foreign adventures, scripts, monologues, press releases, web copy, programme copy, public speaking talks, debates, reviews, beginnings of novels, children’s stories….and now, blogging.
There are certain therapeutic devices in life which carry no risk, prompt no adverse reactions and incur no significant cost. LovelyMan calls these ‘wellness tools’ and they are different for everyone. I have many, as do most people. Stop and think for a moment – what do you do to calm yourself or improve your mood? Have you bought into the latest craze for grown-up colouring books professing to encourage mindfulness? Or is it something entirely different for you?
When I am well, exercise makes me feel great; time spent with my nieces, nephews and people I love is a precious tonic indeed; a walk in the sunshine with LovelyMan; baking; ice skating…but in my current state of physical health, I have become acutely aware that all these require a certain level of physical exertion, even if only to get to a meeting place. To read takes a moderate amount of concentration, which is not always as easy to access as it should be.
But to write…to write, I need to go nowhere. I need only a pen and paper. The ability to write is literally at my fingertips anytime of day or night. So often, it has helped me pick myself up from a struggle. Writing, in particular, is a cathartic act. My late grandma discovered this when she was widowed all too young. She wrote poetry to express and examine her grief. Like her, I write to share, to pass on, to inspire and to explore. Writing lets me converse with myself to work through things I am experiencing without argument, judgement, resistance or risk.
Why, then, am I in the midst of a creative fast? I cannot fathom why, when my physical health dips below a certain point, my creative mind feels as though it shuts down. It isn’t that I cease to want my creative escape. Quite the opposite. Yet every time I take the lid of my lamy, open my notepad or power up my laptop, the gremlins in my brain press the ‘off’ button. All of a sudden, I feel like I can’t do it – whatever it may be in each case. All promise of catharsis or relaxation vanishes in that very same moment. As soon as the prospect of failure is introduced, even if it only exists in my imagination, the anxiety of that cancels everything else out.
So how do I combat this? In my line of work, it would be impossible to carry on, if creative thinking really did become off limits.
First, it is important to say that I can’t always beat it. As my blog silence attests, there are times when the only option is to surrender to it. Indulge whatever the barrier is, as briefly as possible, so I can then push it aside and power on back to business.
You would be forgiven for mistaking this for giving up. It is the way I have always perceived it too. It is the reason I have always berated myself so vehemently when I am going through a blocked phase. That said, I am learning (at long last!) that this only makes the difficult seem impossible, and the impossible seem never-ending. Whereas to pause and allow myself time to breathe, to be still, to rest, to focus on the avenues where I haven’t hit a dead end, and start up again freely in my own time, might just make the process a little less daunting.
So I suppose this blog is about acceptance. In order to stay afloat, it is important that we accept the occasions when we can only function at half-power. Whether it is a chronic condition, a broken limb, mental illness, a bad cold, or just a busy schedule, it is okay not to be on top of everything absolutely all the time. It is perfectly natural to need a time-out every once in a while. It is an important lesson to learn; so that I might find it in myself to be as patient and supportive of my own needs as I am of everyone else’s. Because the world will not implode if I pause momentarily.
I only hope that by writing it, and publishing it, I can make myself believe it.