It’s taken me a long time to write this so please be kind.
Creatively, I am usually very manic. At least, normally I experience short waves of activity followed by short waves of inactivity. It’s the way my brain functions. I can be high on life and art one week, feverish in activity, and then lost in a fog and slumped under a metaphorical duvet, pinned down, unable to move the next. It has been my natural order of things for a long time. I’ve accepted this. I’ve embraced the down days for what they are, recovery days, and enjoyed the high days for what they give, intellectual stimulation and colour.
Late last spring last year I fell into the usual slump time. However, this time it didn’t last a week. It wasn’t the expected short-term trough of the familiar wave. This slump lasted six months. It was the opposite of a tsunami. This longevity of slump took me by surprise and indeed it frustrated me. The cloud of creative inactivity refused to lift first after the usual week, then after a month, int continued to refuse to budge after two months. The suffocation seemed to have no end. I tried very hard to shift the cloud. Nothing worked. So I gave up, shrugged and buried myself in work instead. As it turns out my heart wasn’t completely there either despite my efforts. I found myself to be ineffective creatively and otherwise. Work acted was my distraction and my excuse for the lack of creativity. But the tactic wasn’t working. I found I was making mistakes all over the place. By Christmas, I had become confused and upset. Nothing was working as it should. By the end of the year, I was very lost. I didn’t see that though at the time. Don’t you just love hindsight?
Thankfully, the blockage has just lifted. And as a consequence, I now feel able to write about it and reflect on it. The lift has come just in time. I was starting to feel incredibly anxious and concerned for the future of my MA. I was a few months from the end yet I felt that I had stalled completely. I was avoiding contact with anyone of authority for fear they’d ask me about my work. I didn’t know whether this stasis was temporary or permanent. I was quite scared. That fear caused my great anxiety. The spiral downwards continued. So I saw the New Year in buried deep in a terror that this was it. I was no longer an artist. I felt a fraud. I didn’t have the usual optimism for a fresh start that is normally prevalent after Christmas. I was still swimming in glue.
I now can look back and see clearly what the problem was. I don’t want to go into details but suffice it is to say, I have had a hard few months in my personal life, with a lot of changes taking place, and although these changes are right for me and for the circumstances I found myself in, change is always hard. It doesn’t matter whether the change is positive or negative, it is challenges the psyche. Yet as I was living this period of upheaval, I did not want this to be a reason for the dulling in my creativity. That seemed too cliched. The last thing I wanted was to feel sorry for myself or to generate sympathy from others. I spent the six months in denial, battling the reality. I refused to accept that I couldn’t cope with life’s challenges and be an artist. That’s rubbish! I thought. No, it really isn’t.
Now I’m coming out of that fog I realise that that denial was actually, ironically, keeping me in that state. I see clearly that the things that happen in our lives affect our thinking and ability to generate ideas, of course they do. I have always been good at telling this to other people going through crisis. It is the human condition. So why did I ignore this truth when it came to myself? Pride? Stubbornness? I’m not a quitter. I was terrified of failure and that terror was making failure more likely. This is not uncommon. Many people do this and it is self-destructive. Yes this is easy to say, not so easy to recognise in oneself. It was only when I let go of that fear, realising that failure is not ‘failure’, it’s part of the journey, that I turned a corner and my old friend my creative side returned. Oh how I have missed you.
I can’t end this self-indulgent poring out of thoughts without sharing the advice that saved me. This applies to anyone struggling in life, creatively or otherwise. It came to me at the right time, from one of my creative heroes, Michael Caine. It is simple, in the form of three words packed with power. Read them and reflect.
Use The Difficulty.
I am back. UTD always.