I’ve known for weeks that this was my week to write our early week post. I often wait until the eleventh hour to physically write, but most of the time, my rough draft has been written and rewritten in my mind for days or weeks before I actually sit down with pen and paper. I compare my process to that of making soup. All of the ingredients are there in the making, but the soup itself is much better after a day or two. All of my thoughts are in my head; they too are much better if they mull around there together for awhile before they are served up on paper. Unfortunately, that it is not the case this week. The ingredients were not there for the making. My head was more like clear broth.
Right now, I am in the midst of a full-fledged creative slump. Not just with my writing, but with everything that requires even the slightest bit of creativity – writing, photography, cooking, even choosing my clothes in the morning. Everything I do feels mediocre and uninspired. I haven’t written much at all in the last couple of weeks; my recent photos all seem to be of coffee and yarn; and, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or nachos are as far as my culinary creativity extends. I’m not even creative with the types of bread or flavors of jam on my PB&Js. It’s oatmeal bread and red plum jam. As I write this, I realize just how deep down my slump goes.
I do know that no one lives perpetually on a creative high, that the peaks and valleys are a natural part of the process. I also know that for me personally, the final lap towards the end of the semester always zaps my energy, both creative and physical, so I really shouldn’t be surprised to find myself in the midst of a creative void at that moment. That said, I still don’t like the way it feels.
In the words of Ichiro Suzuki
If I’m in a slump, I ask myself for advice.
I’ve done some thinking and searching about this predicament and how I might face it, endure it, and ultimately get through it. Perhaps some of these thoughts might speak to you should you ever find yourself in a similar place. If not, at least the process of writing has been cathartic for me.
I am a creature of habit. In terms of getting things done, like work responsibilities and daily chores, that’s a good thing. In terms of eating only peanut butter and red plum jelly sandwiches on oatmeal bread…and for my creative spirit…it probably is not such a good thing. For the creative spirit, with routine often comes monotony and boredom, the very things I am feeling about my creative process at the moment. Maybe making changes, small changes, will help my slump. Perhaps getting up fifteen minutes earlier and noticing the slightly different morning light, or the early birdsong, or the fresh dew on the grass will make a difference. What if I didn’t eat lunch at my desk while I catch up emails, but instead ate outside? And to really break my routine, what if I have creamy peanut butter and apple butter on whole wheat bread!
In all seriousness, it seems to me that routine is a good thing for productivity, but not so much for creativity. Productivity, to me, is a measure of quantity. I got all the things done. Creativity is a measure of quality. What I did is imaginative, is original, is inspired. Yes, I realize that there can be an intersection of productivity and creativity, but there isn’t for me at that moment. I am being productive. I am not being creative.
As I said, this is a tough time of the semester and I know that I am not doing a good job of taking care of myself, particularly with regard to getting enough sleep. A tired body and an equally tired mind don’t create very well. A body that is not well fed and exercised can not create very well. I could probably stop right here with these three strikes against me. Not enough sleep, not enough exercise, and not enough healthy food…no wonder I can’t create anything!
Now, at the risk of sounding contradictory, I also believe that being still may be another key to moving beyond a creative slump. With stillness comes peace, calm, quiet, and freedom. In such moments of stillness, we make time and room for the muse to speak and, more importantly, time for the muse to be heard.
My final realization about living through a creative slump is that I need to try to stay positive and gracefully embrace where I am in the moment. My intellectual self knows that there is something to be taught by every experience, especially when the experience is a tough one. My artistic self, however, still finds this hard to accept and even harder about which to remain positive. When it comes right down to it though, do I really have a choice? There is no doubt that slipping into the realm of negativity is a sure road to disaster.
So for now, I’ll endure my position in the slump, try to keep my chin up, take care of my body and spirit as best I can, and attempt to move beyond peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!
And I’ll believe wholeheartedly that this too shall pass.