I have a new creative project that I am in the very beginning stages of and it is a big project. It's something that I've been thinking about for a long time and haven't been able to get to because of lack of time and because I couldn't figure out exactly how to make it happen. But some time has opened up and the shape of it has now become very clear.
I'm very jazzed about it and my muse is totally onboard with it signaling her approval by continually feeding me ideas. It's something that I really want to do. I think it's going to be pretty awesome once it's completed.
And I'm avoiding it like the plague.
I am hopelessly and madly in love with the creative process, but like any relationship where you are hopelessly and madly in love there are times when your beloved drives you crazy.
And the creative process is no exception.
One of the ways that it makes me wacky is how inexplicably linked it is to my inner critic. As soon as I'm ready to launch into virgin creative territory the judging mind is right there breathing down my neck, sometimes whispering and other times shouting in my ear. It wastes no effort in finding numerous tactics all designed to make me miserable and with the ultimate goal of stopping the creative show.
It reminds me of those fairy tales where the hero or heroine is searching for the treasure and they find the cave where the all the shiny, gorgeous stuff is hidden but have to deal with the big, scary fire-breathing dragon before they can get anywhere near it.
And that's kind of how it feels. When I am at the beginning of a new creative venture I start off feeling tremendously excited because I'm so very close to the source. The treasure is right there where I can practically touch it. I can imagine all the pleasure and satisfaction I will have diving into the creative energy and birthing this never before seen thing into the world. But before that happens I have to do some fancy footwork around that dragon.
And my initial responses to that dragon are not always very heroic.
At first it just looks so darn big. And I feel so small in comparison. It sits there blocking the door looking all smoky and fangy and intimidating while telling me all the ways I'm not good enough and why I don't deserve the treasure.
The treasure is only for people who are really talented and have something worthwhile to say.The treasure is earmarked for real artists and real writers. The treasure belongs to someone who is brilliant and full of genius.
In other words, the treasure is obviously not for me.
So my first non-heroic response is to hang my head and mope around for a while. I feel tired. And vaguely crummy. I keep telling myself that I just need to rest a little bit more or that I need to answer a few more emails or finally clean out the freezer. And the time that I set aside for writing or painting just slips away.
The dragon is happily sitting there feeling mighty smug. And I get more panicked and more distracted and less and less able to focus. Which of course makes me feel smaller and less confident and more avoidant. And like maybe this whole project was not such a good idea after all.
This goes on for a while. The length of time I spend wandering around in circles of misery varies with the size of the project. Since the project that I have in mind is pretty ambitious I was able to spend the last two weeks of December (which I had set aside by taking some time off work ), frittering away my precious creative time.
Another really charming aspect of this process is that while I am in this state I don't fully realize what is causing it. I go unconscious. Develop temporary amnesia. It's like I am under a weird kind of spell and I go in and out of forgetting that this is just what happens when I start something I've never done before. I forget that the dragon is doing a number on me and that the reason I am unable to make much headway is that I am feeling powerless and helpless in the face of the fear that the dragon is so good at engendering.
Eventually, something shifts. I get frustrated by and sick of all the inertia which allows me to wake up enough where I can begin to see the dragon for what it is. I will read something or have a dream or a conversation with my husband or a friend that allows me to shake off the poison trance of creative paralysis.
At that point I don't even need to be very heroic. Once the scales have fallen from my eyes the dragon loses much of it's power.... at least for the time being... and I am able to simply walk into the cave and claim some of the treasure as mine. Until the next time that I am abducted into the underworld of the dragon's lair.
It has always seemed so unfair that opening to my creative muse immediately whips my judging mind into a frenzy of activity. For a long while it was a puzzle to me. It didn't make any sense as to why I would be so crippled by fear and doubt whenever I was inspired to create something, which unfortunately for me happens on a regular basis.
But eventually I started to figure a few things out. I began to notice some patterns.
Bringing something new into the world it means going into unfamiliar territory. My creative process is constantly goading me and leading me towards the unknown. It is fascinated by what's around the next bend and what it hasn't experienced. It feeds on experimentation. It is an adventurer that thrives on risk and has no interest at all in repeat performances.
Ultimately what it wants is for me to continually grow and change and to express as much of me as I can in the short time I have here on the planet.
And all that gung-ho, let's just go off willy nilly without a map and a guaranteed outcome makes the judging mind, which is terrified by anything that it hasn't done before, go totally bonkers.
It simply doesn't like strange new things. It's convinced that any foray into places it hasn't been before is just plain dangerous. The unmapped world is full of dark alleys and muggers and maybe a touch of bubonic plague thrown in for good measure as far as it is concerned.
And so it tries to stop me. I know, I know. It's only trying to protect me. It's trying to keep me safe and in one piece.
You could say that it loves me. I'm actually pretty sure that it does. But it's the kind of love that wants to keep me so protected that I'm like a bird in a cage, my wings clipped and my freedom to fly seriously curtailed. If I let it run the show, I would end up leading a very small and unchallenged life, littered with unused potential.
So I keep choosing to live a life propelled by my creative longings. Which means regular run ins with the dragon. And predictable periods of time trying to struggle out of fear induced creative stagnation.
The best I can do as I make this sometimes arduous creative journey is be enormously kind to myself. To be as compassionate as possible whenever I find myself lying flat on my back having been pole axed once again by the dragon's latest "tough love" attempts to keep me out of harms way.
And to try and remember that the dragon wouldn't be so fired up unless I was really, really close to something wild and sweet and wonderful that will probably change my life in the best possible way.