This past week I went to that dark place that artists can go. That deep down place of despair with no light bulbs. I watched a very rough cut of the film I’ve been working on for the last five years. I have been collaborating with an editor on shaping it all together the last few months and this was the first time I watched it start to finish. And some of it was amazing!! And some of it was so much less amazing than I thought….like WTF am I doing less amazing…like questioning if I should even ever put this out there less amazing. It was all so very vulnerable and, at times, the story felt like it was spinning in circles.
I’ve been to this place a few times with this project….at least two other times where I essentially dropped it because I couldn’t see the path forward. Fortunately (although it feels terrifying some days), I am now beyond the point of being able to turn back… for many reasons, including that because I am writing this here, I know none of you will let me 🙂
Are you working on a story, a talk, an article that you also haven’t completed because you’ve hit a similar road block? Maybe its been sitting on your desktop for months or even years? Here are just a few ways I’ve begun to work with creative despair.
1) Get Some Space: an hour, a day, a weekend, a week, a month. Give yourself time and a limit…whatever you need for your heart and mind to reset. Also getting out into physical spaces much bigger than you is a huge help: the ocean, mountains, a giant yoga studio etc.
2) Ask Grounding Questions: avoid the spiral of negativity and overwhelm with three simple clarifying questions: 1-What is not working? 2-Why is it not working? 3-What is trying to happen here? #3 saves me every time.
3) Remember Your Why: what is the deepest WHY at the root of your work? For me, internally, it’s about my own healing, so the journey has already been worth it. Externally, it’s about conveying the power of revisiting our stories, and, despite many kinks that need to be worked out, I am doing that.
4) Reflect on the quote below: in the midst of my despair this past week, I stumbled upon this beautiful quote. It reminds me that often that place we want to stop is where our deepest creativity is just getting started.
With love and boldness,