This week has been horrid, I’ve felt empty sad and mostly disappointed. Then this morning I got this email from Rachelle and it was so suited to me the irony was not lost and I smiled… she’s even got my phrase “This too shall pass” which I just wrote to my sister-in-law in an email, who said not to be too sad.
You may recall that after The Care and Keeping of Gremlins, I said we’d talk about Taming Your Monkey Mind. But I changed my mind. (I’m whimsical that way.) Instead we’ll be talking about Managing the Crazy. (That’s timely, right?) It’s a long one, but ever-so-handy. So make yourself a cup of tea and let’s settle in.
Creative personalities are often a little bit up and down. We struggle with depression. The highs and lows of the creative cycle toss us around. We at once need creative input, and shirk from being over-stimulated.
I believe creative people see things differently. Sometimes this makes you feel a bit mad. The key is to manage the crazy, so the madness becomes an asset.
Once while talking with my amazing life coach, Jena Strong, I mused out loud:
“I wonder what it would be like to be even-keeled?”
To which she immediately replied:
“Why would you even wonder about that?”
Clearly, I am never going to be even keeled. Why waste energy wanting it to be otherwise? I might as well turn it into a super power.
Managing the Crazy is a big field of study. In my book, it includes Abundance -vs- Jealousy, Seasonal Patterns, HSC Power Moves, and Confidence Schizophrenia. But for today, we’ll look at what I consider to be the bedrock concept you need to Manage the Crazy, the Creative Cycle.
Understanding Your Creative Cycle
Over the years I’ve noticed that most creative people have a pattern to their work. Whether you paint, plant churches, or launch a businesses – this birth cycle will be familiar to you. Just being able to recognizing the stages is a good first step towards feeling less nuts in the midst of it.
The Creative Download
In this stage you are full of ideas. You might make lots of lists, or wake up in the middle of the night with plans running through your head. This often fluctuates with the seasons, or even with the stars. (I usually experience a download when the Winter turns into Spring, and again when the kids go back to school in the Fall.)
Common Emotions: excitement, euphoria, anticipation, panic, anxiety.
Handy Mantra: “The Right Thing with come at the Right Time.”
At this point you have do some soulwork in order to decide which of your gazillion projects you want to lay your hand to. You may be tempted to rush past this important step – especially if you are the parent of young children, or if you are working full-time while also pursuing your creative projects. The idea that you are “wasting time” can loom large in this stage. You may feel pressure to just get started on something. Yet it is essential that you spend time playing with your various ideas – researching what you’d need to execute them; checking out how others have done similar work; and doing some preliminary “sketches” and tests. It’s also important to learn how to redefine “failure” as “the learning process.” (More on that at some future date.)
Common Emotions: confusion, flip-floppiness, curiosity
Handy Mantra: “Nothing is Ever Wasted.”
Anyone who has given birth knows this is when the hard work really kicks in. (Well, actually, what they don’t tell you is that the hard part is the NEXT FIVE-TO-EIGHTEEN YEARS…. But I digress.) To push the birth metaphor a little further, this stage is when you have to stop decorating your dream nursery and get to the dirty work. Now you actually have to write/paint/learn how to use your camera/show you work/accepting critique/attach price tags. This is where people often get stuck. You’ll need doulas and midwives, and quite possibly, cheerleaders. If you can get well into this stage, you’re mostly there.
Common Emotions: excitement, fear, resistance, doubt, confidence, impatience, anticipation
Handy Mantra: “One Step at a Time.”
In this stage you’ve got the bulk of the work done. You are probably in the final edits; or you are waiting for the last piece of artwork to get finished; or you need to overcome one more technical difficulty. Some people are great finishers. But a lot of creative souls flounder here. The end is almost in sight – and then you get stuck in a slow motion run to the finish. If you follow me on Twitter, you can tell I’m in the Finishing stage when I threaten to never, ever write again. (I am not a good finisher.) If that sounds familiar, you probably need a partner who is good at the final stretch. Other helpful things include: detailed lists of what’s left, rewarding yourself for getting bits done, and a solid due date or deadline.
Common Emotions: despair, befuddlement, reluctance (Sorry, I couldn’t think of any positive ones here. Maybe you can?)
Handy Mantra: “Breathe the next breath. Write the next line.”
Post Partum Depression
Actually, there’s another stage before this, The Launch – in which you actually give your gift to the world. But that’s usually pretty euphoric. (Are you saying, “Au contraire?” Tell me all about it so we can grow the pool of wisdom!)
We’ll skip ahead to the bit just after the birth, where your project is out there in the world. It’s probably getting a lot of nice things said about it. Maybe it’s getting some criticism as well. But overall I bet it’s going pretty well.
So, why are you so depressed?
It’s the hormone stew. In the past weeks/months/years you’ve been up, you’ve been down. You’ve put your soul into something – and probably your free time and money to boot. You’ve risked. You’ve cried. You’ve celebrated. Your emotions have been all over the place. And you’re probably a little worn out to boot. It’s okay. That bubbling pot of postpartum hormone stew will slow to a simmer. Things will settle down eventually.
Common Emotions: feeling “let down” or lost, vague disappointment, itching for the next thing (but what?)
Handy Mantra: “This Too Shall Pass”
This stage can actually come at various places in this cycle. Sometimes it is quite subtle, but it’s an important part of the process. Smart farmers know that you need to let the land go uncultivated from time to time. A field might be covered with a layer of compost for a growing season. Or it could be planted with a cover crop which when plowed under puts nutrients back into the soil. Our creative growing cycles need fallow time as well.
Common Emotions: “laziness,” a desire for rest, “mindless” entertainment, hermit-y-ness
Handy Mantra: “Honoring the need for rest is good for creative recovery.”
Which stages of the cycle stand out for you? How do you manage them? Do you have other stages that aren’t listed here? Tell us more, and add to our giant pool of wisdom.
Next Week: “Taming Your Monkey Mind.” How to focus when you get distracted by sparkly things. (For real this time!)
Your Magpie Girl
So this week I’ve been in “post partum depression” everything Rachelle said has rang a bell with me.. so that means I’m in line for the next stage which will be next week when I escape from this cruel world and go away to my secret hideaway by the sea at St. Leonard’s on the Bellarine Peninsular. We have a holiday place there and I’ve called it “Bel Far Niente” translated as “the art of doing nothing” and that is exactly what we do, nothing, no schedules, limited TV channels, no land line phone, no computer, I can be there and no one can see me or I can mingle with others. I can walk along the beach and breathe deeply and give myself that forgiveness that I have not given myself here at home. In other words I’m running like a wounded tiger to go away and lick my wounds, but rest assured I’ll be back, better than ever I hope!
For information about Rachelle and her site please visit: http://www.magpie-girl.com/magpie-speak-managing-the-crazy/comment-page-1/#comment-41285