When I get to the end of writing this book, I could probably write another on the process alone. I am having to draw on every tool I have to manage the pressure, the self-doubt, the self-criticism, the infinite self-made distractions, and every other challenge my internal saboteur can conjure. Maybe I'll develop a quest-style video game: So You Think You Can Write.
A teacher of mine used to say self-awareness happens in a spiral. You think you've dealt with an issue, only to find you've got to work on it all over again at the next level. I must have heard it, and preached it, a hundred times. And still, I've been so surprised to meet enemies of creativity I thought I'd vanquished a long time ago. They've gotten much sneakier while they've been laying low.
It's taking everything I've got to keep moving past them: deep breathing, white noise, a lot of caffeine, a little alcohol, chocolate, and a whole lot of prayer. It's barely enough. But maybe the prayers leveraged some kind of cosmic cheat code. Last week, I came across this thoughtfully written piece, drawing on some of the principles of The Artist's Way. I've written about my recovery from creative jealousy myself, and if you've hung around here for a while, you've probably come across my big prescription pad that is preprinted with that title. I recommend it liberally to everyone. I whipped that pad out again as I shared the envy post on Kirtsy and Facebook, so glad to be cured, myself.
Some people get the sudden epiphany, the burning bush. I don't, and even if I did, I'd probably be all, "Do you smell something burning?" and walk right past it. I mean, it takes me a while to realize that the finger is not just held out for me to sniff, but is actually pointing somewhere. I linked to that post in three places before it occurred to me to ask myself what I have been envious of recently. Like I said, the enemy gets sneakier. It's easy to identify envy in the form of covetousness. Contempt and cynicism (addendum: let's throw in cleverness) are its more sophisticated guises, and unfortunately, they blend in perfectly with the zeitgeist.
Of what or whom I was envious is beside the point. What it pointed to, as the Artist's Way teaches and as the blog post reminded me, is that I have been depriving myself of two very powerful and very basic tools of creative life: play and kinship. AW calls them "the artist's date" and "sacred circle." I have a really hard time with phrases like that, the way my cousin Erika refuses to order gimmicky menu items by name. And that's okay, as long as neither of us starves over it. A little irony is good ballast for flights of imagination. But you don't want so much that you can't budge.
I could stand to cut a sandbag or two loose. I take time to relax and socialize, but how often do I really play? I have wonderful people in my life, but how much do I let myself lean? Not often. Not much. Not lately. I would like to learn to do more of both.