We take ourselves way too fucking seriously.
I just finished reading Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic, which was just as affirming and wonderful as I hoped it would be. One of the concepts she tackles - really, one of the mountainous myths she single-handedly punches down - is that of the tortured artist. The miserable creative. The hustler who's a martyr... and, lesbehonest, kind of likes it.
You know this archetype without reading Gilbert's book. You've met them. Hell, you may have been them.
The tortured artist who says things like, "The only worthy creation is born out of pain."
(WTF are you serious?! Gilbert asks, causing me to wonder why the hell I still accept this narrative as legitimate and thus think less of my own happy pursuits.)
Or maybe the martyr hustler is more familiar: "I'm just so busy all the time. I don't have time for things I love."
(Do you? Like, do you really not have the time to enjoy your life? The one and only life you have? ... Really?)
Note: not talking about living with depression and anxiety here. I've lived with both. So has Gilbert. But Gilbert points out that her best and most productive work never came out of those periods. Same here. And anecdotally, same with pretty much every creative person I've ever known.
One of the radical concepts Gilbert suggests is that creativity should be fun and light and joyful.
Radical. And so, so affirming.
A concept that I've been journaling about is "creative joy": how to find and rediscover joy in the creative process.
For me, that looks like worry-free, unencumbered creative freedom. Not being able to sit down and block everything out, but rather, being able to just fucking let it go - even if only for ten minutes.
My journaling has been a series of questions along the lines of, how can I follow the mental and emotional trails that lead me to a free-for-all happy place? And furthermore, what has worked for me in the past to find that unfettered happiness? What methods have I used to get there?
For me, creative joy has looked like remembering (and re-membering) what I did when I was a kid.
By which I mean, the random shit I did as a kid. That you did as a kid.
Not the stuff that has coalesced into the self-narrative: e.g., "I've always been a reader or a nerd or an artist." The stuff that has become so safe that you could recite it in your sleep.
What is the weird shit you did that also fed your creative soul?
Example: I've identified as a writer my whole life. It's a fun narrative - but it's also very, very safe. There's an internal logic to the creative joy that comes from writing (or that I trick myself into feeling when writing) because it's a narrative I've been building - and the people around me have been building - since I was six years old.
Within that logic, doing a PhD in English Literature made sense. Until I was miserable, and it didn't, and I dropped out to start a business.
To that end: starting a business - in lingerie retail, no doubt - emphatically did not make sense with this narrative I'd been telling myself about what I was good at and what made me happy. When I started a business, I was like where in the flying fuck did that come from.
It wasn't until well after Bluestockings actually opened that I remembered my favorite hobby in middle school, aside from reading Harry Potter. I used to read my mom's business books for FUN. Then, I would apply the lessons of the book and write business plans for these wacky-ass, somewhat spiritually infused businesses. One was basically a more magical, fanfic-y version of Bath & Body Works.
So... I wrote business plans for fun. BUSINESS PLANS. And inventory lists. And product descriptions. For fun.
FOR FUN. As a 13-year-old!
Somehow, I forgot that I did this. It's amazing how what doesn't absorb into our life narrative falls away - even the rewarding, the unusual, the wacky, the special. Even when I was starting an extremely niche, kind of wacky business as an adult, I forgot that this was something I'd really, really loved doing after school as a kid. (Total nerd, obvs.)
What is your creative joy, now?
And what was it, then?
You might be surprised how they integrate -- and how rediscovering your old self feeds your current self.
Let's let go of that which doesn't serve us. Let's pursue creative joy.
P.S. I do super rad tarot readings with creatives and girlbosses to uncover and activate their creative joys. Check them out! <3