February 26, 2017

How to Stop Sucking the Joy out of our Creativity.


Sometimes, I want to be a full-time writer so badly, it makes me crazy.

Not just a little, grassroots, hippie blogger. A legit, published author. With book tours and speaking engagements, and no more corporate enslavement. I want all the freedom of the nomadic artist’s life I’ve imagined so perfectly.

If Buddha were here today, he would tell me that my attachment to these desires is likely my biggest obstacle, and certainly, the source of much self-created suffering.

Why? Because I get so focused on not having exactly the life I want right now, it stifles my creativity. Nothing gives me writer’s block quicker than getting focused on money, numbers, web traffic, and the endless time and energy drain that comes from fighting against my corporate job.

Sometimes, I get so caught up in my perceived struggle, I forget why I started writing in the first place.

I did it because it was fun.

I did it to figure myself out, to talk myself through the challenges in my life, to heal from my deepest wounds. Sure, I did it to share my story and connect with others. But, mostly—I did it for my own entertainment and catharsis.

My first actual writing project was a ridiculous blog based on my crazy family. I lovingly named it Dysfunction Diaries. It was vulgar, irreverent, and sometimes hilarious. Writing humor was a way to gently dip my toe into the blogosphere. People really connected with it, I think, because the stories were fun, and the voice was authentically mine.

I’ll never forget when I launched my silly little blog. I shared a link on social media, inviting friends to have a look. Someone commented, “This might be the stupidest thing you’ve ever done.” I responded, “Maybe… or I might be onto something genius.”

That was almost 10 years ago.

Writing that blog helped me find my voice as an artist. It helped me discover that I have a story in my heart. It helped me open up in a way I never had before, and address parts of my life I couldn’t have without an inspired flow of words.

Writing that silly little blog showed me that I am a writer—not because I was wildly popular, or rich and famous, or even especially productive. I am a writer simply because I like writing. That’s it. Easy. A writer just writes.

As I grew, my work evolved with me. Soon, I left humor behind and started diving into the heavy sh*t. I started writing about all the sh*t you’re not supposed to talk about in polite company, like politics, religion, suicide, mental illness, surviving sexual abuse, divorce, and addiction.

As my work became more serious, I started taking myself more seriously. Too seriously, sometimes.

What happened next was cognitive dissonance so intense it was almost crippling. I felt like the only way I would ever be happy another day of my life was to make writing a full-time endeavor. This made me get even more serious. I abandoned my silly little blog and started writing serious stuff all the time—stuff I thought would make me feel more, well, writerly.

I got so focused on making the next step happen, I couldn’t enjoy creating just for the sake of being creative. I put so much pressure on myself to be productive, I stopped having fun. I got so focused on my fear that this might just be a crazy dream that I’ll never see to fruition, I couldn’t be present. And when we’re not present, getting inspired is pretty difficult.

Then, my writing started to feel like work.

That’s when I started feeling burnt out.

Putting so much pressure on myself cut off the natural, beautiful creative flow that happens when we’re just in the moment, doing what we do. That future focus and all the anxiety it brings was the most counterproductive part of my days.

I finally realized that by trying to force that next step to come, I had managed to suck the joy right out of the thing I love the most.

As it turns out, it’s entirely possible for me to write all kinds of things. Abandoning my roots didn’t make me any more of a writer than I’d ever been when I only wrote silly stuff. The less seriously I take myself and my work, the more inspired and present I feel.

And sure, I love writing about important issues. I love knowing that my story helps other people. I love feeling like my words make a difference in the world. But, at the end of the day, I have to write for me. I have to talk about the things that inspire me. I have to use my voice in a way that feels authentic and good for me. And, for God’s sake—I need to make sure I’m still having fun!

Isn’t that the goal of the nomadic, artist’s life I imagine? To be free and have fun?

Isn’t that everyone’s goal in life?

Our creative pursuits don’t have to become an affliction that we suffer from. They can be the joyful outlet for all kinds of expression. We can be completely obsessed if we need to be, but we don’t have to be miserable, exhausted, drunk, poor, or crazy. And, we definitely don’t have to take ourselves so seriously that our creative projects begin to feel burdensome.

A writer writes. A painter paints. A dancer dances. That’s it. We don’t have to sell anything, or win any awards, or achieve anything at all. We just have to do what we love as well and as often as we can. I’m convinced that the rest just works itself out though supreme cosmic magic when the time is right. And the only way to know when that time comes is to be absolutely present and loving what we do.


Author: Renee Dubeau

Image: Ged Carroll/Flickr 

Editor: Catherine Monkman


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