Wednesday, 23 March 2016

The Secret Life of a Creative Junkie.

Confession time friends.

I have a problem.  And like any true addict I took a long time to even recognize that what I had was a problem.

I mean, being creative is a good thing, right?

Producing things, making things, orchestrating things.  Seems like a stretch to think of these things as anything but valuable.

Those of you who might actually agree (with my facetious banter) are likely those who also believe that "good is good enough" or rarely get overly stressed about what you produce, how much you produce and when it is produced by.

The other folks ... the ones who totally get exactly how these things might create a problem ... you are most likely in some of the same categories that I am.

Helper. Perfectionist. People-pleaser. Workaholic.  The tormented artist. Entrepreneurs.

If you fall under any of these labels you most likely place some of your worth and value in what you create.

Now hear me clearly here.  "Create" does not just refer to art or poetry or books or things of that nature. You might create a business plan.  Create a soccer team or a mom's book club.  You might create amazing landscaping or gardens. You might create a comfortable, well-decorated home and great kids.  You might create wonderful coaching, accounting or home decorating services.

Anything that involves using your mind to come up with new ideas, original developments or unique services falls under the banner of "creativity".

And these "creations", by the time they make it out for public consumption can feel as much a part of our "self" as our beating heart.

So now let me ask you something.

How would you feel if I told you to stop?  Stop making.  Stop producing.  Stop creating.

Not indefinitely.  Maybe not for any longer than a day (or gasp, 3 days).

Let me tell you how this makes me feel.

Like s#$%.  Honestly, I feel like crap and I start to feel the immediate buzz of anxiety and panic.

I start having thoughts like,

Well who will do it if I don't?  What if I miss out on a great idea or opportunity and someone else takes it?  What if I lose clients or my family is mad or the world stops turning on its proper rotation?

Okay I'm getting carried away, but I do that.

For me, new ideas, new creations and thoughts of growth, change and new endeavors are like a drug. When I'm feeling down, I just pick up a book about new business ideas or how to build a better website and pretty soon I'm humming.

I love to serve.  I love bringing joy, value and worth into people's lives, and I think that is a noble thing.  The problem arises when what comes from me becomes more important than what is within me. 

Here arises the deadly world of scarcity or "never enough".  The same "never enough" that any addict becomes all too familiar with.  Never enough money, drugs, alcohol, sex, work, time, art produced, blog posts, clean floors, etc.

The addiction to "producing" can be just as exhausting, health depleting and damaging as any of the more high profile addictions.  Families are torn apart by exhausted workaholics, over-stressed moms who both work and parent full time and artists who swear that the next piece (book, blog, painting, movie, etc) will be the big one, but once produced it just isn't quite enough.

Want to know the secret?  It won't be enough.  EVER.  The world will never stop consuming what you have to give them.

And that is a good thing, if you recognize it.

The fact that you have something to give that the world needs is truly a mark of beautiful synergy and symbiosis. You need to create. The world needs to consume.

You need to clean. Your family and friends need a clean house.

You need to write and people need to read.

You need to make shoes and those gosh darn little babies just keep on coming out with feet.

This swirling cycle of need and production are really good things.

As long as you don't get drowned in the current.  
As long as you remember that you ARE NOT WHAT YOU CREATE.
As long as you remember that if you didn't create or produce one more thing ever for the rest of your human life, you STILL HAVE WORTH AND VALUE.

Seems simple.


We get so tied up in believing that in order to be of any worth to anyone, to keep everyone happy and to thus ensure that we are "good" we must continue to produce something that will maintain their satisfaction and allegiance.  

But this is the beautiful and mysterious truth ...

What you create and produce, once it leaves your mouth, your mind, your desk or your fingertips, is NO LONGER YOU.  It might have been part of you once.  In your mind, your dreams, your psyche.
But now that you have created it or produced it, you have done your part.

Your job is done.

Let it go.  Your work is done.

The reason the creative junkie feels the need to keep feeding the beast and running themselves to the depths of exertion and exhaustion is because they spend far too long over-analyzing what they've already created.

It was okay, but not quite there.
That was a good effort, but I could do better. 
That meal was nice but tomorrow I will really wow them! 
That art was junk ... I need to start again.
This next business opportunity, it will make up for that last fail.
That session was pretty productive, but if I'd only said ....

You see where I'm going.

What if we decided it is our job to produce or create something, the best something that we can possibly muster up at the moment, and to put it out into the world.  Then our job is to step back. Hand it off and walk away.  Deliver the lesson, and then put down the plans. Start the business and then let it run.  Make the art and then turn away and let the art now do it's job.

Detach.  Smile and breathe a sigh of contentment and relief.

A job well done. Or a job done shitty.  It doesn't matter because I tried my best and now it's done.

I cannot tell you how much my life changed when I read Elizabeth Gilbert's book Big Magic, and this quote in particular ...

“Recognizing that people's reactions don't belong to you is the only sane way to create. If people enjoy what you've created, terrific. If people ignore what you've created, too bad. If people misunderstand what you've created, don't sweat it. And what if people absolutely hate what you've created? What if people attack you with savage vitriol, and insult your intelligence, and malign your motives, and drag your good name through the mud? Just smile sweetly and suggest - as politely as you possibly can - that they go make their own fucking art. Then stubbornly continue making yours.” 

I love this so much because it means that it no longer matters if my house is clean enough, my blog is popular enough or my business gets enough likes. I mean, obviously I want to make a living and a good life, but as a responsible human being I can find many ways to make that happen.

Do you know how I am going to make certain that I sabotage myself from creating that good life?

By running myself into the ground with attempts to please the masses, perfect the imperfectible or keep up with the Jones'.  By beating myself up constantly for not being good enough, thin enough, "mom"enough, successful enough or productive enough. By trying to get my next "fix" of accolades or recognition through yet another accomplishment or creation.

I can create.  Heck, I can create an amazing home, a successful business, fantastic kids, art, books or whatever my heart desires.  And I can create a lot of it ... As long as the need for some sort of response to my creation doesn't start to own me, or define me, or destroy me.

As long as I could stop and any time and I would still survive, even thrive, without creating any more. 

If you're anything like me, this is a bit of a scary proposition, but a necessary reflection.  If you want to find peace, satisfaction or any semblance of rest in your life you will have to find the courage to detach yourself from your productivity. You will have to be able to to define yourself outside of your creations.  You will need to base your worth and value on something else.  On you.

It's tough to kick the habit, but let me tell you it's life changing.  And totally worth it.

Because you are worth it.

Bravely Forth my fellow junkies, 

Jac :)

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