As writers and creatives, we’re often interrupted by life. We’re energetically in the creative zone and suddenly an emergency strikes. Our child, father, dog gets sick and needs help. The hose springs a leak. There’s a knock at the door. The electricity goes out. Our spouse invites us to lunch. A friend needs a shoulder to cry on. Being compassionate and sensitive to the needs of others, we respond. The child, father, dog, hose, electricity, spouse, and friend represent external antagonists. No, they’re not opponents or enemies – far from it. Yet they qualify as external antagonists in that their demands represent outside forces actively opposing, though usually not consciously or deliberately, our creative time. In other words, rather than supporting our creativity, these life events interfere with our productivity and stand in the way of us meeting our goals. Yet, the connection between sensitivity and creativity goes far deeper than that.
Antagonists are also internal. Internal rivals usually exert even more powerful intrusions to our goals than external ones. Our fears, insecurities, judgments, and limiting beliefs block and discourage our creativity.
More subtle and disastrous internal antagonists are revealed in our emotional reactions to life events. We have a fight with our co-worker. We listen to the evening news. Others refuse to accept our ideas. Our work is rejected. These trials produce negative feelings. If we buy into the feelings, we find ourselves depleted of energy, stuck in pain, and unable to move forward.
Creatives who feel the anger, frustration, disappointment or sorrow and then release the emotion and get back to work are viewed as emotionally mature. Yet, for the countless writers and artists and dancers and singers who tend to be hypersensitive to criticism and insults, it’s not that simple. We’re easily offended and prone to emotional setbacks. We’re touchy and defensive, more so than logical, rational, linear thinkers and doers.
This is not to say we’re emotionally immature. We simply tend to feel things more deeply. We are emotionally more sensitive and fragile than other people. It’s not uncommon for us to suffer and struggle. There is a relationship between sensitivity and the urge to create. Sensitive people are often wildly creative.
As much as our sensitivity can work against us, it also enhances our inventiveness. We’re responsive to our surroundings, to the sights, sounds, tastes, smells and textures of life around us. We channel that sensory sensitivity into our work. That sensitivity brings sensuous authenticity and energy to our creativity. We viscerally feel others’ emotions. Then we use those insights and feelings to convey emotion through our work.
Trouble comes when we suffer a setback. Rather than feel the emotion and move on, we just can’t seem to stop reflecting on what happened. We catastrophize the event, the hurt, the slight, the rejection, making it far worse than it actually is. This happens both within a current situation and in imagining a future condition. Then we relive the pain again and again, and carry grudges with us everywhere.
Blown Out of Proportion
Blown out of proportion, suddenly whatever set us back sucks all the creative energy from us. Rather than write or paint, we bristle and imagine how we plan to treat the person who hurt our feelings. How we’ll take revenge on those who did us wrong. We form elaborate scenarios in our imagination of what we wished we’d said and what we plan to say. Rather than using our creative energy for our art, we squander it in an endless cycle of blaming and shaming. We revive the negativity over and over, sometimes for a lifetime. The problem is we’re hurting only ourselves. Those we’re reacting against are usually oblivious as they go about their lives while we wallow in unhappiness. We ourselves are responsible for shutting down our creative impulse.
The time it takes your heart to return to normal after exercise usually indicates how physically fit you are. In the same way, the time it takes us to return to normal after a bout of anger or frustration, disappointment or sorrow usually indicates how emotionally fit we are.
The next time you receive a negative critique or your work is rejected or you rail against current events try using a technique I learned from Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life. Over and over and over again, repeat “I choose to be happy.” The moment negative thoughts and emotions raise their ugly heads, replace them with the chant. “I choose to be happy.” You may have to do this more times than you ever thought necessary. Persevere. Take it from me, it does work. And, if you find you need to go deeper… try this: “I love and approve of myself.” (Even if you don’t feel that way about yourself, say it anyway. Eventually, perhaps, you’ll come around to appreciate you are the light at the center of the Universe.)
Fire Your Creativity
Clear out the negativity and miraculously you’re open again to receive inspiration and fire your creativity. Before you know it, you’re back to imagining your next scene or writing your next sentence, swirling paint on canvas or drawing images in the sand.
“I love and approve of myself.”
I love and approve of you, too.