During one of her darkest hours, and to remind herself that embracing the process of “getting unstuck” was fertile ground for transformation, Toni Morrison wrote the words:
“There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear.”
This was a note to self: an affirmation in the aftermath of depression and artistic paralysis. It was also in response to a fellow artist’s reminder that it is a creative’s job to go to work, not in times of calm, but in times of strife.
As creatives, we see it as our duty to lead with our observations, our ideas, and our actions. We are atypical thinkers, less risk-averse, and persistent in the pursuit of personal and entrepreneurial goals. As creatives, we are compulsively driven to keep going even in the face of personal and public challenges.
Yet, we must be mindful that these same capacities can also cripple us.
Powering full steam ahead, we often overlook self-care. Living with a passion bordering on obsession we build expectations that, at times, conflict with the current reality.
THE CREATIVE MASTERS on GETTING UNSTUCK
For those moments when we find ourselves burnt out or at a crossroads, here are 6 pieces of inspiration from the creatives who have gone before us:
1. FIND YOUR TRUE PASSION:
“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love
doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.”
– Maya Angelou
Too often money, the approval of family and friends, and all the “shoulds” we have unconsciously adopted from earlier in our lives color the decisions we make concerning our passion and possibilities. Every now and then, we must sit back, mindfully reflect, make lists of and even interview others about the things that happily preoccupied us in the past. By taking the time to discover – or re-discover – your true “why”, you ensure that you haven’t misinterpreted your dream.
True satisfaction doesn’t come from what you do, but who you get to be while you’re doing it!
2. MASTER YOURSELF:
“Take yourself in hand and master yourself. Make yourself do unpleasant things, so as to gain the upper hand of your soul.”
– W.E.B. Du Bois
These “unpleasant” things vary depending on our unique circumstances. But for many creatives, the thing that we are least mindful of is taking a proactive approach to self-care. This can range from devotedly taking food supplements; to creating and maintaining a regular sleep schedule; to parceling time to meet with family and friends, or delegating more tasks to similarly talented peers.
As creatives, we’re already passionately building empires and developing our core skills and competencies, but let’s devote just as much energy in taking care of our minds and bodies. The results will be astounding – across the board!
3. IF YOU CAN’T WIN, CHANGE THE RULES:
“If there is a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
– Toni Morrison
In some cases, you are doing everything you can — yet things do not work out. This can only be for one reason: you’re doing something so fresh that the current system doesn’t yet have the tools to accommodate it.
What do you do then? Create them yourself! You’re in control — give yourself permission to have what you want. And equip the creatives who come after you.
4. EMBRACE THE LONG JOURNEY:
“But to look back from the stony plain along the road which led one to that place is not at all the same thing as walking on the road; the perspective to say the very least, changes only with the journey; only when the road has, all abruptly and treacherously, and with an absoluteness that permits no argument, turned or dropped or risen is one able to see all that one could not have seen from any other place.”
– James Baldwin
When in doubt — keep moving forward. Even after you’ve defined your vision, mastered yourself, and created the optimal conditions for success, you will encounter roadblocks — both mental and external.
In an economy where creatives are underemployed, only 1/3 of businesses survive a decade, and a ridiculously high percentage of start-ups fail, it is easy to want to end the journey prematurely. But the perspective we might need to re-build, re-conceptualize, and revolutionize is only gained from weathering both the positive and negative life circumstances on the long road.
The mistakes, blunders, and blisters are essential to progress.
5. GET HELP WHEN YOU NEED IT:
“If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.”
– Zora Neale Hurston
It’s no news that the creatives and artists who engender the extraordinary answers in times of strife are often troubled by the questions that prompt them. The associations between creativity and mental illness have been drawn and studied for decades. This is to the point that it hardly surprises us when the most gifted among us either receive dismal diagnoses or die too soon.
It’s hard for us sticklers, but quite simple: get help when you need it. The world needs the gift of your presence.
6. BE PATIENT WITH THE QUESTIONS:
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
-Rainer Maria Rilke
Then there are the times when all our passion, resourcefulness, and mastery cannot shake the feeling of restlessness that we may feel. It could mean that we haven’t asked the right question, or that the answer will not be found on the current path that we find ourselves on.
In those moments, be patient with yourself — and with life. As you move, do, and live your purpose – and on purpose – the satisfaction will soon come dripping slow. We may all weather a number of setbacks, disappointments and detours, but the journey is well worth it!
And the journey is all there is.
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