It has been a long time. A very long time.
Since I wrote anything.
A blog post, a short story, a poem.
Over the years, I have found that I have to be in certain moods to write effectively. Throughout a swing of emotions, or in the moment of extreme feeling, positive or negative. I have written before that creative writing is, for me, a means of expressing, processing and coping with my mental health. As a teenager it helped me channel the pain and confusion I felt about my father’s illness and eventual passing and to navigate the new emotions and hormones I was experiencing.
Creative Writing enabled me to transform negative thoughts and feelings into productivity that felt positive (even though the poetry seldom was).
Since I started blogging, my writing is no longer purely stemming from emotional extremes. But at the heart of blogging are topics that the writer feels strongly about, moved by and it is still (for me) an emotional and personal writing experience.
Hiatus: A Break From Blogging?
A lot has been happening recently. It has been a really positive and exciting month.
So why am I not feeling it?
In my last post, before this unplanned hiatus, I detailed some of the challenges I felt I have experienced as I began to use blogging as part of my recovery.
For me personally, the most persistent is pressure; the meeting of self-set or recommending posting deadlines, and frequently the stress that is self-imposed. I don’t think anyone other than myself is really keeping track of how frequently I am posting or whether I am posting at the same time of day, on the same day of the week and the same amount each month.
To be honest, this month I thought about giving up, packing in blogging. But when I began to give it serious thought, I knew I would be losing something that I enjoy, that builds my confidence and motivates me to be creative.
I am not stopping blogging. But I am stopping putting pressure on myself to fit into a self-created blogging timescale. If I feel like writing, I will. If I don’t, then I am not going to turn it into another thing to stress and be anxious about.
Instead, I am starting to take time.
Time and Creativity
At present, my creativity is appearing in short, sporadic bursts. I am having ideas but not the energy to fully pursue and sustain them. I am lacking consistency (even more than usual) and although things are beginning to move forward (at last), I still feel as if I am going around in circles.
I did manage to write my first poem for about two months however. It’s very simple but satisfyingly sums up for me this particular moment of creative stagnation:
Why do ideas never emerge at sensible times?
When you have a notepad, envelope or pen/pencil
Why do you get them, when these are not at hand
When you are trying to sleep
Are in the shower or on the toilet?
Why can your brain seem so dusty and empty,
Deserted by all and any reasonable ideas
Then awash with a tidal wave you can’t keep up with
Trying to grab at shavings to keep the idea afloat.
Is it just a distraction from that big meeting tomorrow?
I did indeed have what felt like a huge meeting the next day. I was presenting a new research proposal to the company that I work for and I wasn’t sure how it was going to be received. Of course, accompanying this concern were all the usual niggling doubts: would I remember my points, would I be sick, would I make my point persuasively?
Amidst all these thoughts and doubts, a blog post suddenly presented itself. It was almost a completely formed entity, but I always struggle with endings. That is were the post remains, a neat demonstration of my point – of not being able to sustain momentum for an idea.
I have been experiencing the same feelings with blogging as well; should I keep it up, will it ever be more than a hobby, can I continue to be creative enough to make it worth pursuing? I listed the pressures and challenges I have encountered throughout my brief time as a blogger in my latest post.
A great many of the people I talk to compare how they feel day-to-day with the familiar metaphor of being a hamster on a wheel. It’s not even to do with the notion of seeing the same four walls everyday, or the same sawdust and plastic beneath your feet. It is that we are continually moving from one project to another, sometimes almost simultaneously, never pausing to absorb or reflect or even fully enjoy what we are experiencing. We all have so much going on, at the same time, that we feel we are constantly moving at top speed, flat out, and wondering all the while how long we can sustain that pace.
Taking time is becoming increasingly challenging.
I know that I am not the only one who looks forward to a day, an evening, or elusive weekend off at a time that coincides with my husband, consisting of long dog walks through the woods or along the beach, to suddenly find that I have agreed to additional shifts, volunteered for activities at church or youth groups and suddenly that precious time is gone.
These are, of course, worthwhile and enjoyable activities, but with the ever-increasing pace of the world around us, it is becoming more important to take time to relax, replenish, refresh. To take the time for our friends, our families, our loved ones.
Technology, Work and Time
Technology is a wonderful, marvellous thing. It holds so much potential for connections, old and new, for information and knowledge, but it also has the ability to eat time. We have all seen the statistics for how much time we spend on our phones, on social media, and we have all experienced how technology makes us available all the time. We can constantly be contacted, connected with, and it has become expected that when we are contacted that we respond within a smaller and smaller window of time.
This is overwhelming at the best of times, but especially if you are already feeling overwhelmed by mental illness. Recovery takes time. From physical and mental illness and injury alike. It can be even more challenging to take the time required for healing mentally, because the injury is not visible. If you have a broken or sprained limb you will have a bandage or a cast, from an operation you will have a scar. Even if you have a virus your body presents observable symptoms.
With mental illness the changes in personality, in posture, in expression, can be so subtle that even those who know us well can miss them. Often we even miss them ourselves. We continually try to push on and through the mental strains and obstacles, which can result in denial and further injury. We can end up exhausting the resolve and energy that we had left to keep pushing through the illness.
Which is why this post is all about taking time. Taking the time to check in with ourselves and see how we are feeling. Taking the time to rest, physically and mentally, during and between projects. Taking the time to spend time with others, to observe them; how they are feeling, how they are acting, so we don’t miss the onset of severe mental strain in ourselves or those closest to us.
Taking the time for ourselves and for others.