I swear when my toothbrush saw me first thing this morning it sighed, disappointed I’d spent another uncreative weekend followed by another restless Sunday night and now I was going to use it to brush away the grit of failure stuck between my teeth once again.
I knew what my toothbrush was thinking. What happened? Your creativity was supposed to explode once you became a full-time freelance writer, wasn’t it? You work at home. Your time is your own. It’s been three years now—why haven’t you gotten back to that novel?
I felt a few defensive gremlins creeping up my shoulders. After all, I have been creative in the last three years. I earn a living creatively, writing copy about movies and books. Even though I think of myself as a fiction writer, I went through a year-long personal essay/poetry/lyric essay phase. I’ve written hilarious and fascinating e-mails to my friends on occasion.
But I could almost hear my toothbrush’s next comment: Yeah? What have you done lately? What have you done in the past week—in the past month—to fuel the creative fire that burns in your belly?
I knew I’d lost the argument.
The truth is that creativity—deep, sustained, meaningful creativity that feeds the soul—really only functions well when it’s nurtured and given space to grow. It’s like a relationship, or a plant: you can’t just set it on a shelf for a month and expect it not to have withered a little—or a lot—when you return from your vacation in the Desert of Too Busy, Too Tired and Not Inspired. But you also can’t give up your job, your relationships, your personal obligations to tend to a small, demanding ficus tree that no one but you can see or truly understand.
Face it, our society is not set up to facilitate having a creative existence. Once we hit puberty, they take our crayons away and make us start planning our adult lives. We’re told we can be creative on the side: after we’ve finished all the responsibilities of earning a living, taking care of a family, being a productive member of society. For those of us who have a loud, insistent Muse, we’re guided to slowly strangle that voice that wakes us in the middle of the night, enticing us to create. We’re told to tamp it down until it fits into a tiny space between “When I’ve finished my To Do List” and Never.
When I worked regular 9-to-5 office jobs, it was hard to make time to nurture my soul-writing. Now that I freelance at home full time, it’s still hard. Each lifestyle has its own challenges. But I’ve also experienced periods when my life was bursting: working full-time, freelancing another 10 or 15 hours a week on the side, dealing with family obligations, a social life, even hobbies—and I still managed to sneak enough moments of creativity into my life to dance through my days, inspired.
So that’s what this blog is about. I want to explore how to make creativity—deep, soul-fulfilling creativity—a part of my life, for the rest of my life. I want to stay creative through easy periods of fertile inspiration and also through the dark times, when work is overwhelming and life keeps throwing curve balls and everyone is always cranky.
I want to stop strangling my Muse.
Copyright © Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com