Resurrection – When To Shut Down a Creative Life (And When To Resurrect It)

Welcome to Part 2 of Reflection, Resurrection and Recreation.

Friday’s post, Reflection, asked why we gave up a creative life and encouraged us to live creatively again.

Part 2 is about death: the need to shut down a creative life, and resurrection: when it take it up again.

As creative people, the idea of shutting down our creative life is akin to hacking a limb off or stopping breathing. While it might appear to be the opposite thing to do, it may in fact be apposite.

Every so often you need to evaluate your creative life, check the map for where you are compared to where you are headed and work out whether you are lost in the Pit of Despair or frolicking in the ball pit at Ikea.

If your creativity is not in the place you want it to be, you need some serious self-reflection.

Do you need to shut down your creative life?

Ask yourself the following questions:

Have You Lost the Passion?

Being creative is hard work. Every creative person will proclaim it loudly from the toilet cubicle (better resonance). We enjoy being creative because we are passionate about it. The passion drives us to continue, to persevere, to work through the tough periods. There is great joy in creating.

But without passion, you are continually giving of yourself and not feeding your own needs. There is more going out than what is coming in. The reasons for the lack of passion are numerous, both internal and external; you will know what has taken away your love for creativity.

Without passion, your creative work will suck you dry and spit out your withered carcass.

To find your passion again, shut down your creative life.

Are You Grieving A Loss?

The loss of a creative project or the completion of something you have invested yourself heavily into can be like a death in the family.

You have to grieve what you have lost; remember what you have accomplished and celebrate the achievements.

It is natural to grieve after a loss. In order to deal with the grief and loss, shut down your creative life.

Does Your Work Suck?

This is tricky. If you are not developing and improving in your chosen creative field, you have to ask someone to objectively and critically evaluate your work. You need to ask the hard question, “Does my work suck?”

If the overwhelming consensus is your work sucks, you have two choices. Firstly, improve your skills. Enrol in a course, find a mentor, workshop your project, seek advice. Or secondly, shut it down. Focus your creative energies elsewhere if what you are doing is truly not what you want to do. Experiment with a few areas to see where your skills are best suited.

Have You Moved Away From Your Core Values?

It can be too easy to seek out the latest trend, jump aboard the bandwagon and ride shotgun. All the while you are moving further away from your original intentions and purpose.

Are you in the wrong creative field?

Are you writing short stories when you should be producing short films?

Are you painting when you should be writing?

Who are you and what do you want to be doing?

Are you doing it?

Why not?

There is nothing wrong with diversifying and experimenting, trying out new creative mediums, but if it takes you away from the core of who you are and what you do, it is time to shut it down.

Has Your Creative Life Crossed Boundaries?

Creative people can be obsessive and focused or ethereal and unreliable as they pursue a creative life. If your creativity is taking over your life and interfering with relationships, if it is taking away from family and friends, it may be time to shut it down.

Creativity involves a sacrifice of time and effort, but not at the expense of you being a selfish pillock. Communicate what you want, negotiate the boundaries so that all involved have a clear understanding of what is required. It may require the drawing up of an agreement, stuck to the fridge as a constant reminder of each person’s responsibilities.

Focus and dedication are important to the life of a creative individual, but if it crosses boundaries, shut it down.

Has The Well Run Dry?

Creative people speak of the “well of ideas,” a place to draw inspiration. Reading a book, watching a movie, visiting art galleries or taking a walk with the rabbit on a leash can fill the well of ideas. A project needs time to develop, consciously, unconsciously and subconsciously. Ideas generate ideas.

Sometimes the creative well is dry because the plug has been pulled out. The draining of ideas may have its source in a range of things: your own emotional state, external situations and circumstances, demands and pressures on your time, or relationships.

You need to refill the well by putting the plug back in and letting it refill in its own time from a trickle to a torrent. Feed yourself on good things like art and music, books and films. Fall in love with simple pleasures again. Leave the tools on your desk and have no regrets in leaving them alone.

If you are dry, shut down your creative life.

Death and Resurrection

But how long should your creative life be shut down?

If you shut down your creative life, will it be resurrected?

Will it become a derelict building, boarded up, dilapidated, falling into ruin and fit for demolition? The shutting down of a creative life may be an individual’s choice or the result of external circumstances and situations, or a combination of both. Some may choose to leave the creative life altogether and never return. This is a shame because I believe creativity should be a part of everyone’s life.

If the shutting down is a voluntary choice, you are giving yourself permission to step aside from a creative life. When you make that decision, embrace it. Grieve your loss and mourn the death.

Set a period of time for your creative life to be dormant: days, weeks, months, or even years.

During that time clear your space; throw out what is not needed; purge the unwanted and irrelevant.

Then set a specific date to resurrect your creative life.

Focus on a project; set achievable goals. Have a project ready to pick up and finish or a project to start afresh.

The creative life is one that is inherently a part of you and brings benefit, but you need to return to the thing you fell in love with. It’s like a relationship: you have to work at it.

Grieve when you need to grieve. Always find ways to improve your work. Reclaim what you are passionate about and establish the core values of who you are. Establish the boundaries of your creative life and keep the well full of ideas.

Only then will you live a creative life to the full.

Do you need to shut down your creative life and resurrect it?

* this is an edited version of a post that originally appeared at Write Anything.

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7 responses to “Resurrection – When To Shut Down a Creative Life (And When To Resurrect It)

  1. Yes, yes, yes! This is so where I’m at and it’s definitely a combination of factors. I think the commercial side of my work has become a huge pressure and I’ve been pushing through my work for such a long time I’ve given emotionally more than I’ve got left in the tank. This has left me grieving over the poor quality of my writing, devoid of passion and quite bereft in myself. I have decided I am on sabbatical but I haven’t set a timeframe for my creative resurrection just yet. I need to find the heart of me again and that’s going to take some time. I went through a few weeks of honestly thinking I’d never write again. I’ve moved past that now and I do believe I will eventually return to my craft but I’m not sure when. I feel I need the passion and joy to return first…

    • In sincerely pray you find your passion and joy to bring about a resurrection.

    • You’re not the first author Karen to speak about the drain of a commercial breakthrough. It’s lauded as this holy grail for writers, but I wonder if it is?

      Bernadette Foley, the publisher at Hachette told the audience at GenreCon to enjoy the years where there are no deadlines, no contracts to fulfill, no one breathing down your neck to create on a timetable. When you have the freedom to create when, what and how you want.

      I hope you can find the passion and joy again… having been in that dark place where there’s no passion to light the way and no joy in the heart to make the trek that little bit easier.

  2. This was where I was at last year… trying to do too many projects, be too many things for too many other people, giving where I needed to be taking and I walked away from it all when my own writing shut itself down. It was like I couldn’t even work out for myself when enough was enough, so the words just dried up and forced me to take stock of what was going on. I needed to go down into the pit of depression and second time to grok what I was doing wrong, how I was cannibalising myself.

    I knew I had to find my passion again and tracked backward to something of the source – something I had always been passionate about, but something that was also easy while I was fragile and putting myself back together again. The source was letter writing, my original form of story telling. But I wasn’t strong enough to do it alone… I needed someone else to come along for the adventure, to keep me honest until I could rely on myself again to keep producing. To stay connected.

    Piper’s Reach and working with you Adam ended up being the balm for a trouble and lost soul. And this year, with my reconnection to my passion and making it a priority to fall in love with writing again, I’ve had my most successful, fulfilling and enjoyable year of writing ever.

    I don’t think forcing a reset is bad… in fact, I think it’s essential to walk away from the dross and give yourself a chance to start from a clean slate.

  3. Pingback: Recreation – Becoming a Creative Person Again | A Fullness in Brevity – Adam Byatt

  4. Pingback: Rediscovering Creativity Through The Eyes of a Child | 1000 Pieces of Blue Sky

  5. Pingback: Starting The Creative Life Afresh | A Fullness in Brevity – Adam Byatt

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