Friday, July 15, 2011

Inspiration Lows (Artistic Downtime, Burnout, or Block)

How do you deal with those times when your muse just seems to have picked up and moved out? I think this is one of those things that I've been struggling with forever, and I still haven't gotten a handle on it. Back when I was studying fashion at F.I.T., I had an instructor tell me that inspiration is a learned skill, just like anything else, and that the successful people in life just always know what to do to just keep pushing through.

Great. Another person telling me that I just don't have what it takes to be successful. I'm sure she didn't mean it that way, but of course that's how I took it, thanks to my parents always telling me how lazy I was.

While I do believe that dealing with artistic downtime is a skill, I don't think I believe that "pushing through" is the best way to deal with it any longer. It smacks of when people say "dig deep". My God, how I loathe that phrase. "Dig deep" seems to me like a codeword for taking abuse from other people and repressing oneself. It's about trying to find the strength within oneself to overcome everything -- even being abused. Sorry, but we're not Superman and we need to quit telling everyone to be like him. We don't need to "dig deep" when we're being abused, we need to just stop, say "No more!" and get the hell out. But I'm getting sidetracked.

I believe that dealing with inspiration lows has to do with acceptance. Liz Gilbert, author of "Eat Pray Love", gives a really meaningful presentation about nurturing creativity. She cites the Ancient Greek idea that all creativity is a direct result of being manipulated, for lack of a better word, by what they called a "daemon". The Ancient Romans called that spirit a "genius". The artist isn't the one creating, the artist is simply being a tool for a divine being. I can easily make the jump to translate the idea of a Roman "genius" into the Holy Spirit.

This does free up a lot of stress having to do with creativity and artistic work. Perhaps she's right, we do need to stop punishing ourselves, even mentally, during the time when we are just not being inspired.

Danielle Laporte says that artistic downtime is just a given. Burnout is normal, so embrace it, because it's a necessary part of the cycle.

Caroline Allen at Art of Storytelling: On Writing reminds us that downtime has no rhyme or reason. It's actually impossible to schedule around, because, as she says, "
Downtown for artists is a completely different beast from vacations needed by full-time workers. As a novelist, you could write one page and need two weeks off! You could write a thousand pages and not need a break at all."

Just more proof that it really has nothing to do with we humans at all. Reading through all of these things, I think it all comes down to trust, actually. Trusting that God hasn't taken away the gifts He has given us, and that hey, He knows better than you about what you need. So you need the downtime. So what? It's not the end. Actually, it's better than the end. It's a recharge so that you are able to once again channel the Holy Spirit in the best possible way.

I think I can live with that. I'll definitely try. And do more yoga.

Creative people, how do you deal with inspiration lows?


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