I was stuck in a very familiar place recently. A place where, for minutes, hours, but thankfully never days, I give up on my creative juices. I wallow in misguided thoughts and negativity.
I am writing a novel about a young woman who finds herself back in 1916 behind enemy lines at the Western Front, during World War 1. She wants to right a wrong and in doing so meets her grandfather as a young man and falls in love with a gorgeous Frenchman. It’s a love story about choices, hope and redemption.
I was at the stage in my writing where I sometimes say to myself, ‘Is this shit? Really? What am I doing? Are these characters ever going to come to life? Can I really write? Who am I kidding?’ Apparently having 26 published books, some bestsellers in Australia, doesn’t relieve me of these insecurities.
So this time I turned to Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame. She has written Big Magic, a book which for me is a kind of handbook for the creative spirit, for when I am lost or can’t find my way. Big Magic is not just for writers, it’s for everyone, because Elizabeth believes that everyone can access their creative ability and find their own big magic.
So I apply her philosophy and say to myself, ‘Oh, I’m just at the stage where I doubt myself. I don’t particularity like this stage but that’s OK. It’s turned up, it’s a tad self indulgent, but here it is in all its glory.’ So I let it sit in the room and then get on with more writing. It’s OK.
Fear may be a daily occurrence, whatever we fill our days with. Fear that others won’t like us, of not being approved of, of not being enough, of not being loved or cared for in the way we want to be cared for. The list can be long.
But that’s OK. The fear already is in the room anyhow, so make friends with it. At a recent talk in Brisbane, Gilbert used the analogy of taking it with you when you drive. To let it come with you in the car. It can sit in the back seat, it can have some snacks if it sits quietly, but it can never ever drive the car.
Fear and sadness are intimate bedfellows. Most of us haven’t been given a strategy for sadness, it can take a long time to even recognise it as a valid emotion. Like fear, let it into your life but don’t give it a front seat. Make sure you feel it properly. Sit with it, feel where it has settled in your body. Be incredibly mindful of it and give it the honour and respect it deserves as a valuable emotion. It can alert you to what needs to change in your life. When acknowledged and cherished, it can be the starting point for new and more authentic relationships, friendships and self-appreciation. If you get stuck, try Byron Katie’s worksheet at www.thework.com
So, on with my writing. It doesn’t look so bad now … a work in progress, a labour of love, a tool to learn and grow. We all have the ability to access our creative juices. What are you waiting for?