This year has arguably been one of the most emotionally taxing and hardest of my life so far. When I turned thirty last December, I had high hopes for the year ahead, not realising that life had other intentions. After last year’s issues, I began the healing process then was knocked back down again with the death of our Gran in late January. After that, some family issues kept rearing large, ensuring that myself and my family found it difficult to heal, find joy, and grieve properly.
The illness and death of another family member, our Auntie Marjorie (my Gran’s cousin and best friend), later in the year, has also been difficult. It took a lot of determination on my part to find my way back to myself again. I started to grieve, found everything too painful, and slipped into numbness and depression. I surfaced after a couple of months, through reading, writing, and self-care. Then, of course, Marmalade went missing.
The healing process has not completely finished. The family issues are still ongoing, persistently hovering over everything. I decided today though, that I’m not going to let external influences drive me off course or stop me from creating. I have moments of optimism, and I have been making plans for the year ahead – helped by the wisdom of other creators, I’ve been finding inspiration and new ways of thinking about creativity. And the main, important thing that I’ve learnt is to understand that fear will always be along for the ride – the trick is to not let it guide you or stop you from doing anything. You have to remind yourself why you are creating. Not the ‘ego’ reasons (money, success, etc), but the ‘soul’ reasons (not to get all new-age here) – for joy, for fun, for wonder, for love.
No matter what life throws at you, the fundamental thing is to be curious and constantly looking at things with wonder. I felt lost this year, and I’m slowly finding my way back, and coming to realise that if I’m still willing to write and create after all is said and done, then I’m going to be able to create through anything. Yet at the same time, I also realise that suffering and pain are not conducive to creativity. Depression and sadness make me feel small, wounded, unable to appreciate the magic of creating. It’s a shrinking of life, and not a state to be pursued when you’re an artist. Writing pulled me out of it this year, but when I look back to the writing itself, it is me trying to work through emotions, thoughts and situations in my own life, not anything I would want to share with anyone.
I’ve just finished reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic (review to follow), and she points out the lie we’ve been fed about creativity – that pain and suffering (the Tortured Artist stereotype) – often stop creativity in its tracks. That is what I’ve always found, and perhaps it took this year to realise that. If you’re addicted, or depressed, or think that painful experiences are the only way to be creative – this is all wrong, because it suggests that we believe it’s okay to die for art. This is a twisted, sad relationship between yourself and creativity. In Big Magic, Gilbert makes the distinction between writing about suffering (because it happened, because it gives you wisdom or has taught you something), and fetishizing suffering. It’s not romantic to be in pain.
It’s not that making art is easy (it’s often hard – you need persistence), but shouldn’t we be joyful, playful and happy about it, at least most of the time? It’s the external things, separate from the work itself, that makes us feel that art is painful. It’s not to say that the art itself should be light, happy and playful, but our attitude towards it needs to change. This has been a revelation to me – the idea that you don’t need to take it all so seriously, yet at the same time, value the process. It’s an exchange – between yourself and creative inspiration. We get so little time, we may as well take pleasure in what we do, and enjoy it as much as we can. That is the attitude I intend to take from here on in – I write because I want to, because I enjoy it. Some days are harder than others, but I still get a rush when I’ve written something. I’m thankful for that – that I still love to write.
Rising, for me, is a process that begins when I accept that there are some things outside my control, but that I can, sometimes, control how I react to them. It’s okay to be vulnerable and sensitive, but sometimes I have to understand the difference between allowing myself to feel and allowing something to go straight to my heart. When you’re down and you don’t feel that you can protect yourself, it’s understandable when external events are painful and knock you harder than they should. But when you are stronger, and have those boundaries back, it is up to you to recognise when to let something go, and let it wash over you. You don’t become harder, more impenetrable, just wiser about how you interact with the world around you, and what you allow into your inner world. This is something that I am still learning, daily. How to let things go.
‘You will find that it is necessary to let things go; simply for the reason that they are heavy. So let them go, let go of them. I tie no weights to my ankles.’ – C. Joybell C.