I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t creating smack dab in the middle of things. Of course I also do my share (more than I want) of NOT creating in the middle of things but the fact remains that life is all about stuff going on and happening around you and to you and with you and if you wait for life to stop so you can create you will soon be an expert at not creating, but at waiting.
I create differently though than I did in the past. When my kids were young I had no trouble writing in the midst of chaos, perhaps because chaos is all you know with little kids in the house. I used to take a notebook with me and write wherever I was, baseball practice, karate class, gymnastics, no problem. But not anymore. And the chaos in my life now isn’t normal family chaos it is more of the emotional kind and the health kind and it is much more difficult to create in the midst of that kind of gunk. What has been effective in the past no longer works the same. Now I need quiet. Lots of quiet. And it takes me longer to get to that internal quiet place of creating than it used to.
I am one of those that can’t, absolutely cannot, create first thing in the morning. I never have and I have finally admitted that it just doesn’t work for me and that’s okay. There’s nothing “wrong” with me, it just means I operate a little differently than those “instant on” morning folks. At 5 in the morning the only thing I can manage to do is crawl to the shower and head to the day job. For a night person this schedule is agony. I come alive in the afternoon. Luckily I leave work at 3 so the bulk of my awake and “able to focus time” is for creating, that is when I don’t let everything going on around me get in the way.
Creating in the midst of conflict is one thing but it isn’t always the kind of creating of creating I want to do (meaningful work) and that can become just as big of a problem than not being able to create at all. I am an obsessive creator and if I can allow myself to work (for that is really what it is all about for me . . . allowing myself to say to heck with everything going on around me and go ahead and work anyway) if I can allow myself to work, the work will overtake me and I will look up at 7pm, my husband home, and realize that I am starved and it is time to eat dinner.
The trick then is how to give myself permission to be selfish and take care of myself by creating the work I love.
I remind myself of the worthiness of me and the worthiness of my work.
I tell myself that it selfish not to use my gifts.
I think about the possibility that one book of mine might be the book that “clicks” with a reader who was sure that no one in the world would ever understand just how they felt.
But how does one create when conflict overshadows creativity?
Let’s face it; sometimes you just need to give into the conflict and forget about creating for a time. When that happens, don’t swallow the guilt pill about what you should or shouldn’t be doing. Deal with what needs dealing with and then get back to work. Conflicts are a part of life. The intensity of them might vary but they never go away completely. And we shouldn’t want them to. We need conflict in our lives to fuel our work. This doesn’t mean that I manage conflict well but I do understand its value to me and my work. When I’m hit hard with a conflict the first thing I usually do is try not to cry. Then I usually just go ahead and cry anyway. I worry and pace and bother all my friends with emails and phone calls. I hug my dog. Then, in spite of the pain, the conflict begins to obsess me until it becomes a story question which turns over and over in my mind and I start to wonder how can I use this in my work?
For that’s really how I create IN conflict . . . I turn the conflict INTO my work.
Writers use the conflict in our lives to help us bring that emotion into our stories. It is writer who writes with emotional honesty that touches the reader in such a way that the reader can then see the conflicts of their own, albeit different ones, mirrored back at them.
When real life threatens to overwhelm me I will always first try to tell a story and in the telling I will hope to find my peace. Some days it will work to just sit down and write and some days it won’t and that’s okay. I won’t beat myself up for not writing because it is just as important, when the beat of my soul tells me to, to sit still in the sunshine with a cat on my lap and a dog at my feet and listen to my heart.