Sundry Posts

The Dark Side of the Creative Life

Life has its ups and downs. Things can be going along swimmingly and then bam; everything turns upside down. You can’t seem to make heads or tails of everything and it feels as if you are wading through quicksand. Doing your creative work, whatever that may be, becomes nearly impossible.

You have reached the dark side of the creative life.


We all have those moments where the blank page appears to mock any effort to fill it.

The thought of reaching for a pen or paint brush fills us with dread and, if you can force yourself to pick up your instrument, everything feels flat and dull.

I believe this is especially difficult during the darkness of the winter months when everything is cold and gray.

While I don’t believe that giving up whatever creative work during these dark days is the best thing being able to recognize what may have an effect on your work can help carry you through. The following list are things that everyone experiences on occasion:

Grief – We all know that when we lose someone, we experience grief. What is less known or understood is that grief has it’s own timing. There is that initial rush of acute grief immediately following the loss. The feelings are strong and raw; we are powerless against them. What I’ve come to discover is that waves of grief can come at any time, often appearing during significant times associated with that loss. I’ve also come to realize that even when we understand this wave and recognize that the crest happens during that significant time, we are caught in the emotions associated with the loss.

As longtime readers of my blog know, I lost my brother one year ago. I carefully observed my handling of my feelings of grief (as per my work as a therapist) and knew that anniversaries of any kind would cause a wave of grief. What I didn’t know is how much that wave would affect my life. The wave has crested (the anniversary has passed) and I must now attempt to crawl my way out of the darkness. What surprised me the most is how much and how long this anniversary of his death affected my creative life.

Illness – Everyone comes down with an illness at some point. Regardless of the type of illness, our energy is sapped, the energy that once fed our creative life. What little energy we can muster goes into basic needs like breathing rather than coughing.

Illness has struck me more in this year than in the past five, some more serious than others. Finding the energy to write in the midst of even a simple cold has often been more than I could muster. I find myself wondering if I will ever be able to write freely again.

Holiday Craziness – How many people can add one more thing during the middle of the holidays? Between parties, gift buying, wrapping and giving, and cooking, who has time to be creative? And, once the holidays are over how do you get back to your regular life

I talked about my plan to deal with the holidays a couple of months ago in this post; mostly that plan included working on my minimum goals for creativity. Still, finding the time to sit down and complete my minimum of 500 words was incredibly difficult, often due to grief and illness not just the craziness of the holiday.

Confession time – there were days I didn’t write at all. I thought about it but didn’t sit down and put words on paper.

Tips to ease this darkness that sometimes threatens to take over your soul:

1. Organize something – I cleaned and organized the junk drawer in my kitchen. I put all the batteries into another drawer that was also a junk drawer (who needs two?), I put the games into the area with the other games and the tools in my husbands one drawer he’s allowed for tools in the house. None of these drawers were in the kitchen. I then put all of my pot holders into that drawer so everyone would know where to find them as they hadn’t had a home in my tiny kitchen. I felt cleansed by this simple act, and the creative juices began to flow.

2. Find or return to a different type of creative endeavor – I like to knit. Mostly I knit dishcloth’s because they take small amounts of concentration which leaves more thought for my creative work. Not to mention, I have a cool and unique dishcloth when my other ones wear out.

3. Read something – I’m not sure it matters what you read. Fiction gets my creative juices flowing, and non-fiction makes me think differently both of which can send me to my writing.

4. Go into nature – Yes, I know it’s cold and snowy and dark but stepping outside and taking some deep breaths will breath new life into you and your creative work.

5. Laugh – Watch a comedy, hang out with friends who make you laugh or play with your cat. Find some levity in you life and your creativity will return.

I’m sure there are many other things to help come out of the dark side of creativity, but these are some of the ones that help me. I hope any one of these will help if you find yourself in a funk.