Blah Happens. It’s Part of the Process.
Meaning, as my coaching mentor Eric Maisel points out, comes and goes. So does pleasure. So does creative satisfaction.
This is good to know when I’ve reached a point in a day where I feel a bit marooned on an Island of Blah.
The way off that boring, dispiriting island is not to crush the competition, blast through resistance, or steal an airplane.
I can get back to the mainland when I just take a pause, get grounded, and remember that blah happens.
It can be easy to get self-critical on the Island of Blah. That can look like “What’s wrong with me? I was into a groove and then I let that $%^&* @#$$%^ distract me and now I’m just going through the motions. Why did I let that happen? I could have stayed in that wonderful creative place for a long time if I hadn’t been so &%)#$#%^. I doubt whether I’ll ever get it right. Why can’t I just stay in the good groove? When will I get the skills to do that?”
It can be easy to grow despondent instead: “This was a bad choice. I’m not cut out for creative work of this kind. If I were, I’d be able to keep going. The fact that I always get stuck after a while proves that I’m not really the creative person I thought I was.”
Habits of self-talk like those can plop us down on the inhospitable desert Island of Blah.
Time to re-frame
I’ve found that the way off the Island of Blah is to remind myself that it’s in the nature of things to feel better some times than others. It’s in the nature of things to enjoy creative work some of the time. Rather than pitting wonderful crystalline moments of awe or ease against the enemies of mundanity or trouble, it’s helpful to see them as all part of the normal creative flow.
So, using that re-frame, it’s not that there’s something wrong with me because I got distracted after the delight of being in a lovely creative groove. And it’s not a sign that I’m a terrible artist because I needed to take a breath when things got unsatisfying and messy.
Creative work just does that – like so many other things in life, it changes. Sometimes, it all cruises along in a frictionless, charmed mode. Sometimes, it doesn’t. And you can’t have one without the other.
Behave as if
In the context of spiritual awakening, coach Eric Zimmer says he found a way to behave like a person who experienced a mystical oneness with everything – even when he’s not feeling it at the moment. This works for him because he recognizes that “the nature of feeling is that it waxes and wanes.”
I’ve had several conversations lately with people who had become painfully self-critical and despondent in the face of predictable creative frustrations. It can be a relatively quick fix simply to remember that blah happens. And it’s not particularly significant.
In light of that knowledge, I like to apply Eric Zimmer’s insight. Even if we’re not feeling very creative at the moment, we can behave like a person at the peak of their creativity. We can accept that the pleasures of creativity, like other feelings, wax and wane.
If the chapter I’m drafting is looking like gibberish … If the drawing series I began has lost its way … If the song cycle stopped making sense three days ago … The way off the island may be to recall the initial creative energy that was present at the project’s inception, and to behave as though that energy is present right now. Even when it feels too far away to summon. What Would Creative Me Do?
The truth about the Island of Blah is that it’s not even an island. It can feel that way when we lose sight of the path that connects it with the mainland. Blah happens. That’s all. Blah isn’t a commentary about our unworthiness or lack of talent. It doesn’t signify that we’re on the wrong path. It is just part of the deal, a necessary part of the creative process, just as much as the wonderful moments.
Can you relate to the experience of being stuck on the Island of Blah? Do you think a re-frame might help next time? Drop a comment below.
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