Dear heart, you can’t quit doing something you love any more than you could quit your mind from dreaming. That’s the existential suffering the creative person goes through. Our minds are never in a state of equilibrium. Our moods swing between euphoria and self-doubt like the pendulum on a huge cosmic clock. The waves of the cycle may be long, like weeks at a time, of creative drive and energy followed by days or weeks of doubt and depression. This isn’t abnormal, it’s normal for an artist. We create, we pour everything we’ve got into our passion. Then we wait to hear the appreciation, the understanding, the connection, coming back at us as though you shouted in the darkness and you expect an echo confirming your existence. You may not always get that echo.
I struggle with this myself as an artist. Not too many people “get” me. In fact, of the people who do “get” me, some days they don’t leave an echo either. I put a lot of time and my own money into a project and sail it out there into the void and nothing comes back – not even so much as a grunt.
But then I have to go think it through. I have to go withdraw into myself and be my own best friend. I have to ask the ultimate, unanswerable universal question: Why?
If I have taken care of my spirit and corporal body, and if I allow my mind to calm down and quit ascribing motivations to people, quit expecting things of them, I can usually get to the point where I rise above the noise in my own mind. Let the mind be quiet.
You know, being alive is a mystery. We don’t even know ourselves all that well. We think we do. Then something comes along and sends us a little out of control. In the absence of light, there will be darkness. We create our own light or we suffer the darkness.
May I offer you this: Accept that there will be times when you feel like calling it quits. Accept it. Accept it as a normal feeling. Of course, it feels like shit. Bad days ARE bad days. But that’s all they are — just a day. But when you can recognize that a bad day will not last forever, then you can just accept it and let time take care of it. Things will change. There is no equilibrium other than the brief moments when we shift between light and darkness, going forward bursting with creative energy, or retreating back within ourselves to recharge and rest. We only have a finite amount of energy to burn. When it’s done, we are done for a while. But in that state of exhaustion, it would be a mistake to ascribe motivations to people that may or may not be real. Just because we don’t always get a reward, or even feedback, for the things we create, it doesn’t mean it’s not there. It just means that in this moment, you are creating a need for something, a desire. You are frustrated and demanding.
If it’s any help, I go through this all the time. Whether I like it or not, this is price I pay for being aware of my existence. I guess you may have figured out by now that I am an existentialist with a strong leaning toward Buddhism. It’s not the path for everyone. In fact, a lot of the time I think many followers of organized religions and philosophies are full of shit. It’s easy to pontificate about suffering and how to fix it when suffering is not present. Try to tell a child who has just lost both parents in an accident that the child should become more self-aware and then the suffering will go away. Impossible. Suffering is a part of our existence as real as joy and love.
So suffer, Bridget. Not to be glib, but someone once wrote: When you are going through hell, keep going!
Tomorrow is a new day. Be there for it.