A Little Lost

June 6th, 2012

My friend took this when we were walking on Hampstead Heath during my visit to London last year. It’s a day that stands out in color for me, unlike so many that pass idly by without making a dent on my memory. Looking at it now, I recall such pleasure in just being in the present moment, something that is hard for me to achieve. I’m always making a mental list of what to do next. But I also look at it as a sign of where I am now…on a path that seems to dead-end and unable to see which direction to go in or what to do next. I think I’ve been stuck for awhile in a place of feeling uninspired and at the very end of my bag of writing tricks. This week, I’ve been listening to an audio book as I drive to work — Imagine: How Creativity Works — and the instances the author documents of artistic and scientific revelations and breakthroughs just end up making me feel inadequate and irritated instead of inspired. “That will never happen for me again,” I think angrily. Another friend of mine suggests this is like transitional labor in childbirth when you feel exhausted, frustrated and impatient. Maybe, but I find myself constantly questioning whether I’ve ever been truly creative or just creative around the edges. Because this stage has gone on way too long. Yes, I can write again, unlike last year, but still not easily and happily. And yes, I’m painting, but in what seems to me a very ham-fisted way. I think of true creativity as being like lightning, not this slow burn that might fizzle before it even ignites. I want an Aha and I worry that I’ll just get a Whatever.

Postscript: The deeper I get into the book the more it reinforces what I know and have to keep relearning, that intense focus is not the way to have an insight and that trying to force an imaginative breakthrough pretty much guarantees you won’t have one. Just as fighting the pain of labor makes it much more difficult to endure. I am liking this book more and more and definitely think it’s worth a read.

11 Responses to “A Little Lost”

  1. lucinda says:

    Listen to the whole book-it WILL encourage you. (and I love what I have seen of your painting!)

  2. Nikki, when we go to a gallery or museum, we see the artists’ best work. When we read a book or magazine, the same usually applies for the writers and designers. We don’t see what got crumpled up and thrown away, painted over, tossed out. We don’t see all the edits, deletions, false starts, nor do we see all the people behind the scenes that helped bring the work into being: mentors, friends, colleagues, teachers.

    All we see is the finished product and we imagine they just sat down and wrote it or went into their studio and made it. Shazam.

    No one publicizes the ideas that didn’t work out, the crap that never advanced to some new and better level, the dead ends, the do overs. No one blogs about their failures, and there are plenty of people selling a formula or path for how to be creative or successful.

    I think all we can really do is be open to what we’re feeling, seeing, experiencing. Be a keen observer and participant in life. We need to stop stalking the Muses. It makes them nervous and they run. : )

  3. nikki says:

    you are so wise and of course I know that deep down…but I can only see the dreck I produce. It’s hard for me to imagine artists/writers I respect go through the whole stop/start/backslide/advance process that I seem to get mired in because of course we only see the revelation, not the walk in the dark.

  4. Harriet says:

    Love your post! I feel like that all the time, unfortunately~Vgrrl is right- we always see the finished product and it makes us feel that much more inadequate. Being inside my own head can sometimes be debilitating- reading blogs like yours helps to push through! Thanks for the post. 🙂

  5. Harriet says:

    Ok, so I posted three times! Ha! didn’t mean to- or maybe i did mean to tell you I really liked your post!

  6. Tori Walters says:

    V-Grrrl: thank you so much for the reminder. I’m a beginning freelancer and forget that actual work and disappointment went into whatever piece I am reading-it isn’t just me having melt-downs.

    Nikki: Sometimes we get to be very good at tunnel-vision. It’s quite a feat to remember to look up and around. Try to keep the pen/brush moving.

  7. Nikki, A poet friend once told me that while it was great that I could be “inspired” and find a poem in their air (at least that’s what it feels like sometimes) that his work was about showing up every day, doing the drudge work and then sifting to find the gold.

    I like the shazzammm feeling of getting the bolt from the blue, but mostly, I find that my best inspirations come from doing exactly what you are doing. Banging my head on the wall, reading, talking, pondering, and then just showing up.

    I like the comment that the transition stage of labor is like the stage when you are waiting for enlightenment or inspiration.

    And remember, after enlightenment, we still have to chop wood and carry water.

  8. nikki says:

    Working on not being so hard on myself!

  9. nikki says:

    Ah yes, the chopping wood and carrying water. I’m always looking for shortcuts!

  10. claire says:

    please come back. i need hampstead just as much as you.
    i love taking your picture.

  11. I really love this photo. Rather than being told to stay on the pavement, you could look at it, as being set free to go wherever you feel led from here on out. Free to explore, at will.

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