Try a Little Tenderness

Month of Courage was a success for me in ways I didn't anticipate. Not only did "putting myself out there" reap benefits I wasn't prepared for, but it also pushed me past my comfort zone in new and exciting ways. During April, I rebooted my editing business, generated gobs of new poetry, blogged frequently, socialized often, and wrote and directed a short film with some very cool people. All of these things were output driven. I was going out and "doing the thing."

I was trying (subconsciously, probably) to keep that momentum going into May and keep working on projects, saying "yes" to things that scared me, and really "going for it." 

But I've found myself struggling in the past week or so, because the poems aren't coming, the obligations are starting to really feel like obligations, and I'm more sensitive than usual. I'm tired. I've got to pump the breaks. 

For a long time, I adhered to a narrow definition of a vibrant creative life. I thought that I needed to be in a state of constant creation to be a "real" artist. If I wasn't writing every single day, I wasn't a writer. To this end, I would set up daily routines (that were, in hindsight, overkill), thrive for a week or a month, inevitably falter, and then berate myself for not living up to the creative ideal I had shoved down my own throat.

However, I've learned that I am absolutely a real artist-- it's just that my creative process is not a linear constant-- it's more of a tide, ebbing in and out. In The Artist's Way, Julia Cameron likens the creative process to a well. Sometimes it is full, and you draw from it heavily, but then, the waterline gets low, and you must do the less lauded but equally essential work of filling it back up again.

I think this also draws back to our patriarchal culture model. The idolization of that constant, hammering creative output is the masculine side of creation. It makes sense that we would ignore the more feminine, intuitive underbelly to that process, wherein you hunker down, listen, and be receptive to what you hear. Where you forage small things instead of going in for one big kill. 

It also ties to capitalism. We're obsessively trying to up our Gross Domestic Product. Worth is directly tied to production. You cannot reap profit from stillness. You grind, grind, grind, and never pause. That's why we feel guilty on days off if we don't "do anything." Breaks are not a worthy part of this model.

But taking a break is sometimes all you can do. So I'm scaling back this month, and doing the regenerative work of filling the well back up. I'm not going to feel guilty when the words aren't flowing, when I don't feel like going out, when my body wants more sleep. I'm going to honor this phase of nesting and quiet. I'm going to refocus from output to input-- what can I do to nourish and nurture? How can I be still? How can I be gentle? How I can I feed myself? How can I honor the waiting?

Do you ever feel this craving-- to just hide away and put yourself back together? Do you honor that tenderness?