Yesterday, I finally admitted to myself the well had run dry. Creativity is an essential part of the human experience -- it's inherent in us all. But acts of creation, particularly something as long as a novel require the kind of sustained and focussed effort that's easily derailed.
You may be thinking I've got writer's block. I don't -- I'm still writing. I should note that I don't really believe in writer's block. The blank page doesn't bother me because when I sit down to write it doesn't stay blank for long. What I'm experiencing is a profound level of exhausting -- physical, mental and emotional. I don't even get to the blank screen, it's been nearly a week since I've even opened my laptop.
Two of my children are special needs. This last year my wife and I have been battling the bureaucracy of the Australian Government's second favourite political football, the NDIS1. Tiring in itself, it's worse when it's on top of, well... raising kids with special needs. For us the simplest daily tasks, can be like a pitched battle -- a battle that's fought and re-fought with no ground gained. I can't remember when my wife and I had anything resembling eight hours of unbroken sleep -- and I still have to wake up at 6:15am every morning to head off to work to pay the mortgage and our medical expenses, ad infinitum.
I've burnt out. It's hard admitting it -- not just as a Brit (stiff upper lip and all) but also as a man. Society has a narrow definition of masculinity. Men are supposed to stoically bare the world's problems on broad shoulders, tapering down to a narrow waist. But I digress, I'm old enough now to dismiss that kind of thinking as the insecurities of youth.
I'm not interested in self-pity; I just want to fix it...or at least patch up my leaky bucket just enough to carry the load up the hill.
Well, there's the chance to experiment. My current roadblock is encouraging me to explore other stories as well as ways of telling them. At some point soon, I'm planning to start a podcast, combining my healthy love of audio gear with my need to tell stories. Another thing I've started doing is teaching my eldest son how to program with Python, my favourite language -- we're going to make an interactive story game.
Kind words help a lot. I've been delighted by the reviews on Amazon, iBooks and elsewhere I've received from readers of The Weaver's Boy. I've also had amazing feedback from people who know my personally, both on social media and in person. It's really encouraging and helps in more ways than I can articulate. To those who've reached out, I give you my heartfelt thanks.
Talking helps but my options are limited2 and I don't like dumping on others -- we all have our own shit to deal with. Writing about it feels almost as good and perhaps, if you gentle reader are in similar circumstances, take comfort in knowing you are not alone. Not everyone has the perfect life of the Instragram famous -- the beautiful, Photoshoped fakery of the wellness crowd.
Talking is only the start though, albeit a big one. Finding time for yourself is important. Going for a run, lifting weights, reading a book, playing a video game, binging on Netflix, making love, crocheting...whatever. When your bucket is empty, you need to fill it back up. Taking the time to do something you like -- even something that may feel purely self-indulgent -- acknowledges to you that you are worth the investment.
That's what I think it comes down to...investment in yourself. We are all worthy of respect as individuals, but it's too easy in our hyper-busy world to forget the need to respect ourselves. Creativity, happiness, peace, contentment, well-being -- these need to be cultivated with care.