“I can’t deal with the roller coaster of creating!” Does this sound like you? One of my clients said something similar, and it got me thinking about how to deal with this particular roller coaster without tossing your cookies or, worse, falling off the ride altogether.
First, let’s acknowledge that we kind of love the roller coaster. I know I do. Creating – and the emotions that go along with it – meet my needs for variety and adventure.
Roller coasters are supposed to be fun, right? Thrilling, a little scary, but ultimately, an adrenaline-filled blast.
That was the case when Prince Charming and I rode Tatsu at 6 Flags in Magic Mountain, California. It’s billed as “the tallest, fastest and longest flying coaster on Earth.” The seats flip after you get on so your body is open and parallel to the ground. At one point, you are plunging headfirst toward the ground, with no cage or car. It feels like flying. It was terrifying.
Sadly, the emotional experience of creating is not quite as thrilling as Tatsu. I saw a graph that described the emotions during an entire project from conception to completion.
You start off optimistic about the novel you are writing. The enthusiasm! The dreams of literary fame! But very quickly that emotion drops off. You begin to feel doubt: about your abilities, your story, your characters. You begin procrastinating because the story has lost your interest. Perhaps you keep going, but now your expectations are low. To even finish would be an accomplishment, never mind the Man Booker Prize.
This is where most people give up.
But not you, because you are reading this blog post. You aren’t most people. You are focused on your own sweet growth, and making a greater contribution to the world. You know that you’ve made a promise to yourself, and you are not the kind of person who would break that promise.
HERE IS HOW YOU KEEP YOUR PROMISE TO YOURSELF.
You must know that this isn’t about pushing yourself through. That will only lead to literary constipation. This isn’t about dragging your ass to the computer, unlike the butt-in-chair advice you’ll get from many writers. That is masculine advice, and it comes from a sense of being at war with yourself. Sometimes I will advise a masculine perspective. I even recommend the book The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield, as a general guide for artists. Yet when you are emotionally low is not the time to be at war with yourself.
When you want to toss your cookies on the emotional roller coaster of creating is when you need to make it easyon yourself. Nurture yourself. Have fun. Scream. Get up and dance. Look in the mirror and tell yourself how gorgeous you look. Be silly.
Set up a writing (or painting, designing, etc.) schedule of mini-goals or baby steps on the path to finishing your novel. Reward yourself every time you finish a baby step. Make them as tiny and incremental as necessary.
Fun little baby steps and lots of rewards was how I finished my first book. It helped that I was on my honeymoon while writing the middle section, and that my rewards could be long kisses and wine-sipping Grecian sunsets. Get creative with your own rewards.
Remember, it doesn’t matter if you give up and start again 100 times. All that matters is that you picked up the pencil, laptop, camera, or paintbrush again.
Be present to your emotions during your art creation. How are you feeling right now about your project? Write down each separate emotion. Consciously feel your way through each emotion, and then acknowledge that each of them can be helpful, as long as you choose to move through them, and not get stuck there. Emotions – all of them – help us become better artists.
I would love to read about what you do when you hit emotional low moments during creating. Please let me know in the comments area below.