Don’t Say That Later Will Be Better

January 21, 2009 at 1:59 pm (2008)

I’m just trying to find
A decent melody
A song that I can sing
In my own company…

U2, “Stuck In A Moment”

Credit Vintage Modern by Heidi L (flickr)

For the past two months I’ve been pleasantly overwhelmed by waves of inspiration and a newfound sense of creative motivation. I’ve been writing stories, blog posts, and working on freelance projects; I’ve had ideas brewing for the new website, community involvement, and personal art and writing projects. Every day I would wake up with a renewed sense of determination and ambition, eager for ways to express myself creatively, curious to see what I could produce and where it might lead.

For the first time in a very long time, I felt like I had a passion and a purpose: I had found my place.

But the weeks have slowly slipped away as I’ve settled back into my 9-5 routine, and the inspiration and empowerment I felt since my return seems to be fading. I’ve spent the past week and a half struggling to write an article, only the words just aren’t coming; I have two blog posts that I’ve written and rewritten, only to relegate them back into the drafts folder; I have a new site getting ready to launch that I’m now questioning. What bothers me the most, however, is that I have stories to tell, but my characters are no longer talking.

Or maybe I’m just not finding the time to listen. Either way, I’m having a great deal of difficulty tapping back into that mindset and staying there.

Creativity and writing is such a huge part of me that its indulgence is the only time when I feel truly myself, when I feel alive and not like I’m merely going through the motions of the day. Creativity allows me a sense of freedom and focus, to imagine that anything is possible, to believe in beauty and good and all those horrible clichés. Writing allows me to ask the questions and purge the feelings I’m not willing to speak out loud; for me, it’s what breeds my compassion and understanding, allows me to grow as an individual.

Through these creative outlets, I become something more; through writing, I’m everything I could ever dare to be: I am a painter, a poet, a memory-keeper. I am a philosopher, a scientist, and a fortune-teller. I am an architect, an engineer, a craftsman. I am a student and a teacher, an artist and the art. I am a writer.

It’s my passion, my pride, and my purpose. And while I love to work, while I enjoy helping people and finding solutions to problems, while I excel at the administrative tasks and find pleasure in an office environment, I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t make me happy in the same way that writing and being among writers does.

I’m going to indulge in overdramatics because it’s the only way I know how to express just how much this is affecting me: When I feel suffocated and stifled, creativity is what allows me to breathe. And right now, I feel desperate, frustrated, because that outlet has been replaced with the mandatory job. And I’ve never, ever wanted to settle.

I’m stuck with a strong sense of obligation, trapped between responsibility and expectation. Point blank: I need the paycheck that comes with the job. And I don’t know if anyone around me would understand my desire to give that up for a passion, a dream.

I only know that I’m not in any position to take that risk on my own.

Every single part of me knows that this is not the life I want to lead. That’s hard to admit to, if only because it means that something now has to change, and that change will mean relying on courage and chance, and I never quite know if I have enough of one to believe in the other.

I want to dream; I want to believe in possibility and I want to take chances.. But most of all, I want it to matter.

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3 Comments

  1. Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills said,

    As I read, I was struck by two different messages coming through your story. Here’s what I heard:

    1. You are a creative source of energy, but there doesn’t seem to be any external source of energy flowing in, it’s all flowing out. Sounds like your mind needs a pattern interrupt. Do you ever completely disconnect from your pursuits? We all benefit from activities that have absolutely nothing to do with the rest of our life. It is a necessary pause that can invigorate us mentally and balance our perspective. Try letting go for a few days and see what happens.

    2. Your view of your job is being skewed in a negative direction. Make a list of 30 things you love about your job. This exercise will set your mind searching for, and focusing on, the positive. Thirty is a large enough number to present a challenge. This will get your creative problem solving energy into a mode of appreciation. When you finish, read your list out loud twice a day, before bed and first thing in the AM.

    After a few days, you will feel mentally refreshed and have more appreciation for your temporary source of financial support (job). You’ll be supercharged!

    What do you think?

  2. taniamccue said,

    I’ve struggled with the same thing when I was working a 9-5. And what I came to realize is that unless the artist is independently weathly, most artists (writers included) have to do something that pays the bills until they have found a way to live off of their art. While this is less than ideal, it is unfortunately the reality of the situation. I agree with Jonathan. It sounds like you are stuck in a rut- and I wonder if feeling so stifled by your job isn’t contributing to the block that is interrupting your creative flow.

    Good luck!

  3. twentyorsomething said,

    One of the reasons why I love and appreciate my readers so much is that everyone’s comments contain nuggets of wisdom and profound insight. You force me to step back and detach myself from the situation in order to look at it from another perspective. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the honesty that you provide. Thanks to everyone for reading, for commenting, for providing conversation and additional food for thought.

    Jonathan: The part of your comment that resonated with me was my negative perception towards my job. There are positive things about it, and those are the things that I’ll be able to learn from and take away, but you’re absolutely right in that I tend to focus on the negative aspects because of how I perceive it’s holding me back.

    If I were to look at it in a more positive light, perhaps I could have a greater appreciation for the resources it provides and the flexibility it allows. It’s something I need to work on, something I’m willing to work on. Because no matter how much I complain (and my blog is a natural outlet for that, it seems!), I really am grateful for the source of income and stability that it provides. Per your first note, I wonder if I surround myself with creative external resources if that will provide the inspiration that I’m seeking, despite the lack of that in the job. It looks like I have some work ahead of me. I’ll definitely give your exercise a try!

    Tania: It seems this is exactly what is meant by “struggling artist,” isn’t it? That’s something that I had completely forgotten and kind of gives me a newfound appreciation for what I’m going through. The hard part in all of this is knowing that something needs to change, only not knowing how to make that change, not knowing if that’s even feasible at this point. And it seems that’s where patience comes in, and it’s going to be trying and tough, but maybe that’ll make it worth it in the end.

    All of these things I know, deep down, but when I’m so stuck, it’s sometimes easier said than done. What I do need to do is be happy and appreciative of what I have, but then that begs the question: is that satisfaction merely another word for settling? Can I balance both worlds? Will finding creativity elsewhere help me feel better about the job? Is the job a means to a creative end?

    I don’t have an answer yet, so I’m curious to know how other people succeed in finding that balance.

    Thanks for your responses!

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