I once listened to a talk by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat Pray Love that has always stuck with me. The speech was not easy to get through. Not because it was boring, but because the anxiety she discusses felt so real it came out to identify itself within me while I was listening. “Hey, dude, can you believe it? She’s talking about me.” In the speech, Gilbert goes over the creative mind and how many of us feel this anxiety and pressure to create pieces of work or projects that match your own (and everyone else’s) impossible standards. She then went on to detail a new way of thinking about creative insight, how ideas and creativity come from something outside of yourself: a muse or a gift from the heavens, anything that can be attributed to something other than “you.” This is supposed to alleviate the pressure from the oversensitive ego that always feels threatened by the creative process. So instead of having this unsettling pressure of shooing awesome out of yourself, you can label the process as more a vehicle from an outside source that comes to you at mysterious times.
I like that.
I believe in that.
Then when I actually decided to become a writer, I experienced that.
But when it happened to me, it did very little to alleviate any anxiety. Because whenever there was a creative calling from my muse, I would be scared shitless to chase it down. I knew what it entailed. It entailed a war inside my mind. Not a skirmish or a couple of shots fired, I mean a battle where resistance plans a full-blown attack on every instinct and communication I have with my true self. It may come from somewhere else, but the battleground was in my head. And this battleground was always a sight to see—soldiers lay dead, smoke fills the air and out of the battle, I gimp forward with bandages around my head, holding a creative piece of work to give to the world. And now that I know the sacrifices this entails, sometimes when I hear these creative muses, I make an honest assessment to myself if I am really ready to get the shit kicked out of me.
And yet, there are times when I go looking for a war, and there is nothing to be found. I have trained my mind for war, and I’m actively searching for someone to start something with me. C’mon muse, creativity, where the hell are you? Let’s do this! Nothing. So I wait while the troops make camp. Sometimes I get them up early to train, but knowing that they won’t battle that day leaves them antsy and unengaged.
Sometimes there is the perfect balance between you being prepared for a battle and an actual battle available for you to fight. As a writer, I call this the perfect storm. It has happened to me once. I remember my heart beating out of my chest as I slammed the keys on my Macbook. I pushed on and on into the night. Nothing could disrupt the rhythm, call (ignore) email alert (ignore) sleep (ignore) food (goldfish). There was no block, no resistance, no self-doubt. There was no time for that. I was surrounded by purpose, and I beat the shit out of resistance, self-doubt and fear.
That was one of the greatest writing moment’s of my life.
If it happens to you, embrace it, because out of the battle will come your best work.