Creativity Cancelled

I was feeling uninspired and frustrated with writing weeks before coronavirus took over the world.  It was bad.  It’s a whole lot worse now.  It’s even a struggle to focus on reading anything but the news.  Creativity has been cancelled for now and I’m not going to try to fight it.

This pandemic and the resulting shutdown of almost everything has left me on a roller coaster of emotions.  I’m sure many can relate.  Anxiety, stress, frustration, fear…it took me awhile to recognize that underlying it all is a simmering grief.

Many have lost lives and loved ones.  Many have lost their livelihoods.  Many, like me, have found that our ability to create is paralyzed.  We have all lost normalcy for the time being, and it may never go back to exactly what it was before this.

It’s okay to grieve.

With the absence of creativity, I’ve found relief in accomplishing physical tasks.  Tackling projects that have been put off for far too long.  We’re rebuilding our chicken pen, building new raised beds for gardening, and renewing old raised beds that have sat empty for years.

I’m teaching the kids to sew by making cloth masks to give away.  We’re diving into schooling at home, together with our incredible teachers who have moved mountains to figure out how to make this distance learning work.

We’re getting through this, one task at a time.  As we adapt and settle into our new routine, I’m sure I’ll find some time to focus on my work again.  It’s spring, the season of new growth, and I have no doubt inspiration will sprout anew.  Creativity may be cancelled for now, but it always finds a way through adversity.

Why Do You Write Your Stupid Story?

Slogging Through the Summer Slump

“Why do you have to write your stupid story, Mom?”

My child asked me this question in the car yesterday as we left the grocery store parking lot.  I didn’t take the stupid bit personally.  After all, my children aren’t allowed to read my story so I don’t think they’re qualified to judge its quality.

I think the sentiment behind the comment has more to do with a frustration that Mom spends so much time on the computer these days.  A sentiment we all share.  And that’s something that keeps a constant hum of guilt in my mind all the time.  Summer break amplifies that hum to a roar.

As I wrangle with the excruciating task of editing, the kids want adventure.  More adventure than can be found in our own back yard.  And food, constant food.  I struggle to keep my head in my story while they argue over one of thousands of Legos.  I find my patience waning and my temper shortening till my responses to their constant needs get snappy.   The guilt grows unbearable and I finally give up and push the story aside for several days in a row (or a week).

I have no idea how parents of young children have ever finished a book in the history of mankind.

When I return to the story after however many days I have spent appeasing my guilt and giving in to all the distraction, I feel as though I lose an entire working session figuring out where I was headed when I pushed the story aside.  Knowing this, it often becomes easier to just go another day without writing, and then another, and so on…and this project remains neglected.  Cue more guilt.

I’m sure none of this is conducive to creativity.  It certainly hasn’t been for mine.  My new draft languishes at nearly 50,000 words as summer heats up and pool maintenance joins the ranks of attention demanding distractions.  (Confession:  I actually really enjoy pool maintenance.  It’s a sanity-saving endeavor for me, like gardening, or meditating.)

Just like the pool, balance is key.  I know this, of course.  But, a month into summer break and I still haven’t found that balance.  Maybe I won’t all summer and maybe the answer is finding peace with that.  Because this story will get finished.  I’m not giving up yet.

When the question spilled out of my child in the car, I considered letting it go unanswered.  I could just turn the volume up on the stereo and silently sulk in my guilt.  It seemed much easier than explaining why I write to anyone, let alone my kids.  But, in the end, I settled on a simple and honest response.

“Maybe it is stupid, but when you have a dream, you have to do it.”