Creatively empty

The notion of creativity has been on my mind a lot recently.  Mostly, as I’ve struggled with my new sense of evenness, I’ve silently wondered what it really means to be creative, to feel a passion for something and be really good at it. This musing comes from a desire to really understand myself, to feel like I’m really good at something, and from a strong sense of feeling inspired, more than usual, by several external influences, books, blogs, even things that are happening on a professional life. Because I’m slowing things down, and my mind is more clear than it has been in a very long time, I’m paying closer attention, noticing and embracing the beauty and wonder that is the work of others.

While the breadth and depth of beauty I’ve found in so many places enchants me, it also leaves me feeling somewhat empty. I’ve never considered myself to be a creative person. I do creative things like writing, scrapbooking, and card-making, but I think of that as doing, rather than being. And in my opinion there is a essential difference between the two. I am often for example moved to tears by someone doing the very thing that they are really good at, truly an expert or gifted in some way. It’s an unusual reaction, I get it at sporting events, when listening to radio programs and features, when I attend workshops or conferences, and of course, in the more obvious places like at concerts, in museums and at festivals. This, to m is the very heart of creativity, a distinctive quality or passion that inspires others, whether through action, art, song, theatre, professional skill, whatever. Creativity means filling others with emotion, making a difference through beauty or skill, inspiring.

So what does a person do when they realize that most of their creativity comes from a dark place? When your depth, your connection to substance is tied to the stormy waters that you cannot bear. What do you when living a level life, an even life, means feeling productive, energetic, even happy, but still so deeply unfulfilled?

My life has become an array of contradictions. I’m happy, but I’m numb. I’m energetic, but I’m weary. I’m productive, but I’m still hopelessly lost. I’m doing, but I’m not being. I’m full of life, but running on creative empty.

And the funny part about it is that it’s not uncomfortable. It’s so odd. I believe that this is where I am supposed to be now, after almost 9 months, an essential interval in my recovery, but I’m desperate to see  beyond it. What comes next? How do I move back into a more authentic, and comfortable self, without sacrificing myself? What is the healthy counter-balance? And what will it take to find it?


24 thoughts on “Creatively empty

  1. I don’t think that creativity comes from a dark place. I think it’s easier to access when we are dark. But I also think it’s easier to confuse creativity and emotional vomit when were are dark. You will find that creative spark again. You just have to take time and make space. At least, that is how it was and is for me. In fact, I’m more creative and interesting now as a relatively happy person than I ever was sad and angry.

    • Christine says:

      Alex, I just ate your words up. I NEED to hear this. That I should be taking time, that this is normal and a part of the process. A necessary part of my recovering, instead of a new way of being. Thank you.

    • Christa says:

      Really well said. I’ve had the same experience, thanks for putting it out there so beautifully…

  2. Celina says:

    You are where you need to be and on your path. I think the start to finding anything about ourselves is to simply ask the questions.

  3. Cathy says:

    I think by slowing down and taking the time to notice the beauty in other works you are refilling your reservoir, slowly changing your mindset. At first it’s hard, then you know how to do it, but still need to practice. Eventually it’ll be natural and feel comfortable.

  4. harrietglynn says:

    Wow… I have no great insights except to agree with a previous commentator that this is clearly where you’re meant to be right now.

  5. Lindsey says:

    What an essential question: what to do when creativity is linked to darkness, and to really go into the creative place is to wade into the stormy waters. I don’t know the answer, but I do know the struggle. xox

    • I thought of Lindsey’s writing when I read this post and am glad to see her comment here.

      I also don’t have the answers, but I know the fear that comes when it feels like creativity is linked to the hard parts of ourselves and our journeys. And I appreciate what Alex said above about not being too quick to confuse creativity and the “emotional vomit” that can come from our dark places. Oh, if only I could spend as much time celebrating the simple joys as I do ruminating in the hard spaces.

  6. Louise says:

    I don’t have anything close to answers, but I was thinking something along the lines of the first commenter – that creativity might be easier to access when things are dark, but it is more worthwhile when we’ve pushed into the light to find it. And perhaps this evenness you feel right now is just an in-between place (I was just writing the other day about a place-between-places, as the ancient Celts used to feel about dawn and dusk as the time-between-times!), and that soon you will move past it into joy. I hope and pray you do!

  7. ShannonL says:

    I can’t think of much to say because I can’t really relate, but I think Alex had the perfect words so, “what she said”! 🙂

  8. Lena says:

    I loved this: “I do creative things like writing, scrapbooking, and card-making, but I think of that as doing, rather than being. ” I had never thought if it that way but it makes a lot of sense. But perhaps the act of doing, gets you closer to being?

    Also agree with the above comment about making space, or a “clearing” as I learned on Mondo Beyondo. Opening yourself up to possibility, then creating the time to explore, to make mistakes, to learn and to adjust. From everything you have said, and written about, I feel you are already being your authentic self. Like anything it is a work in progress, but you are well on your way Christine!

    • Christine says:

      Remembering to create the space ot explore, and to clear things that don’t help you along your way is so important. I’m learning to do this in bits and pieces. It’s not always easy, but I agree that it’s a vital part of the process.

  9. As one who has been wedded to creativity of different sorts all my life – with my share of “darkness,” but also tremendous joy – I can say that for me – creativity is a matter of conduits to and from the mind and body and reframing of observation and experience. Those conduits work as well from a dark place as a lighter one; it is a matter of recognizing that they play in different registers.

    Moreover, there’s creativity – yes – but there’s also the work of taking creative ideas or impulses and executing. Those “even” periods are extraordinarily helpful for that.

    It may sound more romantic to “create from a dark place” – but I don’t feel it’s necessarily the only way to create, or create well, or create authentically.

    Be you. Be you feeling all these contradictions. Be you – taking your time to adjust, and know that you’ll continue to change and ripple. There is no “one creative and even Christine who creates” (or who lives life).


    • Christine says:

      Thank you my dear friend for this. Your words are so intuitive and so helpful. Particularly by reminding me how important this “even ” period is.

  10. Christa says:

    I think, my friend, you are in the In Between. I know exactly what you mean, and you are not alone, but it’s hard to put words on what I feel about it. I think of it kind of like the transition phase of labor, or the big hill at mile 9.2 of a marathon… and you are the third person i have “talked” to this week, in that place.


  11. Alana says:

    I’ve been thinking about this post all day, enjoying how your words and the thoughts they provoked have been bouncing around inside me. I was reminded of Karen Maezen Miller’s post on how doing and being are the same thing. I thought of two friends – incredibly talented and successful writers – who were afraid of losing their edge if they got healthy & happy. Over the last few years I’ve watched them climb through their own muck and where they stand now – in committed loving relationships and more successful than ever – seems proof that creativity and happiness are good for each other. And certainly in my own life, I’ve seen creativity come and go. I’ve discovered that when I stop forcing or worrying or listening to the voice of fear, I float to the top, closer to joy, closer to whole and more creative than ever before.
    Thank you for sharing your healing journey, your fears & vulnerabilities, your growth.

    • Christine says:

      I love this: I’ve discovered that when I stop forcing or worrying or listening to the voice of fear, I float to the top, closer to joy, closer to whole and more creative than ever before.

      It’s true and it is exactly what I need to learn to do!

  12. pamela says:

    How did I miss this yesterday? I know what you are saying here, the fear that when the angst is gone the passion will be too. But I think the evenness is where it’s at. When you are even you can be a conduit from the creative world.

    I am also wondering … Did you even read this gorgeous essay you just wrote?? If that is not creativity, I don’t know what is.
    I LOVE what you wrote about paying attention. That seems to be the secret to life.

  13. Ohhhh, what pamela said about your essay: “If that is not creativity, I don’t know what is.”

    Christine, I got teary-eyed reading this post – first because I have *never* read anyone saying that thing about “being moved to tears by someone doing the very thing that they are really good at…” – it’s a reaction I have as well – but (like I said) never saw anyone else confessing (grin). I think it’s a beautiful, intuitive response and I love it (and feel so happy about the “me too” feeling I got – love knowing I’m not the only one)!

    The second reason I teared up was because I was witnessing someone (YOU) doing that very thing: you were doing something you’re really good at!! Not just writing (which you are obviously very good at), but being masks off, ass-out-naked-vulnerable and REAL in your writing. There’s almost nothing on earth I like more than that – thank you so much!

    About the dark – as someone who’s spent a #@&!-load of time in the deep dark (and as a recovering psychotherapist, who worked with many folks in the dark) – my thought is: we live in a culture that is afraid of the dark, afraid of the truth, afraid of real – a culture that strives for perpetual youth, uniformity, and false joy (because of its fears) – I think that there are few, very few, folks who are willing to talk about dark & light. There are plenty who will talk from either camp, but few from both —

    Dark-talkers go on as if there is no light and light-talkers go on as if there is no dark; you (this is the REAL quality that I find so beautiful) have been in the dark and know things about it (and, it seems – are not crippled by fear about it – you are willing to share about the dark) & you have been in the light as well – so you are able to bring BOTH to your writing – which is why it touches people.

    Thanks for sharing your creativity with us!!!!!!!!!

  14. Kelly says:

    Sometimes it seems like everything’s paused. We’re neither moving forward nor losing traction, despite our fierce desire to *be* somewhere already. Just settle into this place you’ve discovered and explore it. Plumb the depths it offers you — even if all you find is a respite from emotional upheaval.

  15. I, too, am moved by people doing the very thing they are good at. It’s a lovely observation. Thank you for making me stop and realize how much I savor it.

  16. […] my recent post on feeling creatively empty, and my decision to allow myself to sink into summer and slow things down just a bit, I really […]

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