The Eternal Torment Of The Creative Mind
It’s 10:55pm. I’m tired but I just can’t sleep. Next to me in the darkness, my wife is “sawing logs”. Meanwhile, I’m running thru the next 5 years of my car club’s annual Car Show. “Well, since the 25th Celebrated the 25th Anniversary Edition Camaro, then the 28th should honor the Z28. But what could the 27th be? How about Camaros from every year of the 7s: ’67, ’77, ’87, ’97, and 2017!” I’m not even on the planning committee for this club. I just did some graphic design work for them the last couple of years. But here I am, brainstorming when I should be resting.
Creative brains don’t work 9-to-5. Our minds are constantly going, and inspiration can strike any time. But just as fast as the deluge of ideas can flood your brain, the flow of creativity can dry up just as quickly. There are times when there’s nothing. You’re at a complete loss for anything new. Your mind is the equivalent of a blank Word document with the cursor blinking at you, mockingly.
I grew up with a work ethic instilled in me from when I was very young. I always had to be doing something. In my retail days, I learned that if you’re not dealing with customers, then sweep the floor, tidy the counter, restock the displays. Old man Lombardo used to say, “You can’t sell from an empty shelf, kid.” At the radio station, when I would have these creative lulls, I’d be in my studio, backing up projects, cleaning my production studio, trying to do something to light a spark of inspiration.
When these creative droughts happen, it can often feel paralyzing. And if you suffer from anxiety and depression, you begin to wonder, “Have I lost it”? “Was I any good to begin with?” “Will I ever have another winning idea every again?” The harder you try to get the creative engine running again, the worse it gets. But I learned something recently that I think might help and I have it a shot.
I saw a post from a friend that let me know that it’s okay to feel this way. I don’t know the source of the material, but I thought I would share it as it really rang true for me.
Reminders for the Anxious/Depressed Creatives
You’re more than what you make. (Well my entire identity is tied to being a creative.)
Your productivity does not determine your value. (I do feel I need to deliver something to be valued. Damn you, work ethic!)
It’s okay to do nothing sometimes. (But I’ll feel ashamed. Again, work ethic, I’m looking at you!)
Not everything you do has to result in a product. (True, I do engage in creative exercises and experiments that don’t yield a finished product but do teach me a new skill that I can apply to something else.)
Not everything you make has to be important, significant, or even good. (That’s encouraging. I can hit a few fouls balls I guess.)
You can make things just for yourself. (But that doesn’t pay the bills. Though it does look nice on my wall.)
You can keep secrets for yourself, whether it’s not posting some of your projects or not sharing your techniques. (Well, I do keep the rubbish ideas to myself.)
You’re allowed to say no. (I can?)
You’re allowed to rest. (<YAWN> I think I need it.)
So, I checked in with my client base and found a free day in the week. I meet up with some friends I hadn’t seen in a lifetime. I went to a casino. I did some day-drinking. Did I still feel guilty taking time for myself with nothing to show for it? You bet your ass, I did. But at least now, I know that I need to do this from time-to-time to quiet the demons of insecurity that can torment the creative mind.