This is an unusual start to the year for me, to say the least. For starters, I’m in the very exciting position of awaiting the release of my first novel, The Shadows We Cast, at the end of the month, and adjusting to my first year living in a new country.
Slightly more impactful (and much less pleasant) was the news in mid-November that I had skin cancer and would need urgent surgery to remove my lymph nodes, which I had done at the end of December. Oh, and my whole family got Covid just before I went into hospital so I spent a week isolating in a flat in the snowy mountains waiting for surgery. Not how I was planning on ending the year.
I do want to talk briefly about why I’m sharing this. I’m not looking for sympathy or shock, or hoping to turn my personal woes into clickbait. It just occurs to me that a lot of people, every day, are going through really crappy stuff. And that maybe, instead of hiding it away and pretending everything’s fine, it would be more helpful for everyone if these things were more visible.
Making bows out of magazine pages was a good distraction while isolating
But I digress. The upshot of this is that I find myself in a position of recovery. While I’m doing really well, there’s no denying that my body has been through a lot and will need treating with care. Which got me thinking about writing, creativity, and recovery.
A few years ago, I read and (sort of) followed Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way. She calls it a ‘course in discovering and recovering your creative self.’ It’s full of lovely stuff like dealing with your inner critic, using positive affirmations to boost your confidence (cringey at first yet effective), and gives you the time and more importantly, permission, to focus on developing yourself as a creative person.
Only, I never actually finished it. At the time my daughter was quite young, so I figured there was absolutely no way I was getting up earlier than her to write my ‘morning pages’ (three pages of dumping anything that is roaming in your brain). I also figured that, as a part-time teacher, mum and already very busy person, there was no way I could give myself an entire two hours a week to go on an ‘artist date’ (a time to allow yourself to play, enjoy yourself, top up the creative well).
There are worse places to be isolated…
Although it’s a twelve-week course, I found myself stretching one week into two, then three, and then before I knew it I had started it over a year ago and had only made it to week 10. Still, I thought, the lessons are there, right? I’ve done enough of that to just be able to create whatever I want, whenever I want.
Since I quit teaching 18 months ago, I figured that the simple fact of making writing and writing-related things my life meant that I had no more issues with imposter syndrome, no worries about coming up with ideas, nothing to do except keep writing.
Now my body has slowed me down, it’s occurred to me that this isn’t really the case. If anything, the added pressure of, ‘it’s my job’ has made it harder to feel like I can justify the floaty, creative, inspiring bits of what I do. If it’s not making money, if it’s not marketing my stuff, why am I bothering? But, of course, if I’m going to make a living out of being creative, there’s an awful lot of nurturing that needs to go into that side of things, otherwise I’ll have nothing new to share.
Hard not to be inspired…actually wrote some poetry!
So, I’m starting again. I’ve re-committed to spending a decent amount of time on morning pages (they will be evening pages on the days I get up with my daughter) and am trying to think of some good ideas for artist dates in a Covid world. I’ve already found a few people to come along with me on Twitter, so do let me know if you’re doing it too, always easier to stay committed with a bit of support!
If I can’t give myself something as important as creative recovery now, when can I? I hope that your reasons for embracing your creative self, in whatever form that manifests itself, are a little less dramatic than mine!
Happy New Year,
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