The Creativity Desert and Getting My Groove Back

I am in desperate need of a vacation. This has been a rough year for me, and there hasn't been nearly enough down time to allow myself to recuperate and get my mental vitality back in order! I have been working on it, but it has been a challenge this year. I felt like I lost any kind of creative drive I had, and I really struggled with that over the last year. It is a horrible feeling for a writer to feel that blocked and shut out of her own mind. But the good news is that I am slowly coming back to myself. I think that so many things have happened over the last decade...graduate school, my dad's health issues, graduating grad school, new job, relationships (good and bad), blah, blah, blah. Life, basically. But, the biggest change of all was suddenly not having a project to work on anymore.

Looking back, I realize that I had spent nearly 10 years working toward a single document. There was always a project and goal: finish the dissertation...defend it...graduate. I did those things, and I am glad that I did. In my last twelve months of grad school, I watched my town be destroyed by a tornado, experienced the death of one of my closest and dearest friends, dealt with the death of my grandmother and dog Casey, and started a full time job. I kept going. I finished the dissertation, defended and graduated.

And then I had this moment of euphoria that lasted a little over a year. I had all of this free time! I could read whatever I wanted, and I wasn't being held accountable for any of it! So, I did. I read and read and read. I had to retrain myself to read for pleasure, forcing myself not to underline, highlight, or make notes. I couldn't pick up a Victorian novel for over a year. I didn't write. I just read. I read whatever I wanted...genre fiction, classics, history, biographies...whatever I wanted. And it was great--at first.

But sometime over the last year, I realized that I was starting to panic. The reality of not having a project I am working on started to make me a little crazy, so I decided to dedicate myself to finding one. But this didn't work. So many things happening in work life and personal life took me to the point of exhaustion, and this killed any kind of creative urge I  had. Even more horrifying, I discovered that I had a serious block when it came to creating something fictional. I have always written fiction. But, after grad school, I stopped. It has been killing me. I will get a great idea, but then I feel so blocked and am overcome with exhaustion. I couldn't understand why this was happening. I even decided to do "The Artist's Way" program, which I am still going through. I have to say that I think it has helped in some ways. I am writing more--though not fiction at the moment. I am having more ideas and feel stronger mentally. So, any improvement is a good improvement, in my mind! But going through all of this and trying to reflect on all of the things I have done/been through/experienced in the last decade, I realized that graduate school is a dangerous thing for the creative mind in some ways. I'm not saying my creativity can't be brought back--it is--but I am having to open up my mind to some of its older ways of operating.

For so long, I had to analyze and take apart what I read. I was destroying instead of creating. I realized this during the process, but it is the game you play and what you do. I hadn't thought about it until I read the most recent chapter of "The Artist's Way" where the author mentions this exact issue. And, for me at least, it is true. In the process of getting my degrees and writing for academics, I buried and tamed part of my mind--the most vital and important part of it for me. I did love doing analysis (I think it was fun), and writing academic papers was never a chore. It all came naturally, and I liked it. But, I also lost something. But that loss is temporary. I am coming back to myself, and I am writing every day now. It might not be fiction yet, but it is moving in that direction. I have two writing projects I am pursuing, am actively involved in my writing circle, and am dedicated to feeding my curiosity again.

Feeding my curiosity and making time for all of my crazy interests is something I am dedicating myself to these days.  I am really addicted to documentaries and podcasts. For me, these two forms of media feed into that part of my mind that needs stimulation. After being in an office all day, these things allow me to experience the world in a doable way. You see all kinds of people; hear all kinds of ideas. And this is great for me, because I love thinking and learning new things.

So, anyway, that is where I am right now. Like I said, it has been a really hard year. But I feel like Susie is getting her groove back. :)

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