All professions have their own unique set of built-in hazards … including the creative professions.
Creative professions are many and varied. Probably many of these have similar built-in hazards depending on the tools and materials used, and the type of creative work it is and how it’s executed. The one thing these all have in common is the creativity itself … that glorious intense spark inside that drives the creative to create. It’s the gift we were given that defines us as creatives.
I like to refer to that gift as our “pony”. It’s that intense energy and emotion that rises up inside when inspiration floods our soul.
Everybody feels deep emotion when they see a beautiful sunset or hold a baby or when they love deeply. Creatives with ponies who experience these things, will be moved to try and capture those deep emotions in some tangible way. They will paint paintings and write music and poetry and use all sorts of art forms to express those deep emotions.
Like any profession, creatives have to learn how to do the thing they love. They generally find out early in life, but some creatives live for years before discovering they have a pony and what form of expression that’s going to take. Then comes all the hard work of learning the tools and the mechanics of how to do the thing they want to do … learning to write, how to wield a brush, how to play a musical instrument, voice lessons, … whatever is needed for their particular creative bent. In my pony metaphor, this is likened to breaking your pony so he can be ridden. He has to learn the rules and learn to obey the rider’s commands so that he will be useful to the rider.
Unlike other professions, in creative professions it’s not enough to simply know how wield the brush or play the instrument … the emotion has to come through the strokes and the notes that are played. It’s a very abstract concept, difficult to understand or explain … both the creative and the patrons of the creative’s work know when the work was successful in conveying that emotion, or when it fell flat. This is when a creative needs to know how to ride his pony.
This is where my pony metaphor has a little hiccup, because I hate the term “breaking” horses. You don’t want to break your pony’s spirit, you want to capture it. You want to learn to hang on and ride those waves of passion and intensity. All that intensity and emotion will shine through a creative's work when the creative knows how to ride!
And here is the greatest challenge creatives face – the dark side of their creativity – is staying atop that pony!
It’s always easy when the inspiration and the motivation is flowing like a river. When the ideas are flowing and everything is falling into place and rocking along as it should.
But the days will come when the ideas stop flowing. Days when you’ll work and work and nothing you try is working. The inspiration and motivation have dried up.
Sometimes days will turn into weeks, and weeks into seasons. Lives change and get rearranged. Relationships end. Health fails. Resources dry up. It's all part of life. Everyone who's alive goes through the same ordeals.
For creatives, who tend to feel their emotions to the nth degree, this dark side of their creativity is quite disturbing. When your pony disappears and your heart and mind are empty voids, it can be quite unbearable. It can feel like someone ripped a part of you away. Then the creative begins to panic ...
Some creatives fly into a flurry of activity. Some withdraw from life. Depression settles in. It affects everyone around them. Like a finger puzzle, the more the creative struggles to get out, the more entangled they become. It's not something that only happens to an unfortunate few, every creative will fall into this hole at one time or another. The secret to getting out is the same as the secret of the finger puzzle ... relax and just go with the flow.
If you happen to live with a depressed creative, don't expect a great reaction when you tell them that. They are in agony and that's going to feel a bit callous to them. If you are the depressed creative reading this, it likely feels like a trite, simplistic solution. So hear me out ...
Your pony is like that proverbial butterfly: the harder you chase him, the more he will elude you. So just stop chasing him. He knows where he lives, and he will be back. The secret is to get your mind off of him and wait well. Keep your life as normal as possible and just busy yourself with living life.
Don't fret and worry over him ... this hard season is the perfect season for learning some mental discipline. Take care of yourself and your family. Pay bills, wash dishes, go enjoy a good movie with friends. Keep life as normal and as orderly as you possibly can.
This is simply one of the built-in hazards of your job ... a very painful hazard to be sure, but, despite how it feels, it's not fatal and it's not permanent. And the more you panic and flail, the worse it will be. So relax. Wait well.
Very soon, you will be maneuvering through the happier, just as traumatic flip side of this hazard ... your pony's going to suddenly show up and the euphoria and flood of ideas and motivation is going to sweep over you like a tsunami!
Don't let it wash you away ... this hard season is the perfect season for you and your pony to learn some self control, because now the bills aren't getting paid, the dirty dishes are piling up and friends are complaining that they never get to spend time with you!
Welcome to creative living! Endure and enjoy. Ride the highs and lows, and keep your sense of humor. And show some understanding and compassion when friends and family complain, "You sure are hard to live with!"