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On Trials and Stumbles in Creative Pursuits

“Frightened by the loss of our familiar mooring places, shall we become paralyzed and cover our inaction with apathy?”

Rollo May (The Courage to Create)

This is the first blog post that I’ve posted since mid-February, which means I haven’t published something in well over a month. This on its own isn’t a very big deal, especially since my priorities have been elsewhere, but I feel like it’s too big to just simply ignore.

Originally I wanted to just jump back right into my regularly scheduled content, but I feel like there are lessons to learn upon reflecting on my short absence. So I’m going to slow down and take the time to reflect.

When I started my blog, I intended to write a blog post every week.

No matter what.

I even lowered the standards for what a blog post is. I told myself that a blog post can be about literally anything. I set the bar low, so I can actually hit it every week. I try to optimize my systems for consistency, not necessarily quality. I figured the quality will come with multiple iterations. I like to rig the game to win, especially games that I play on my own.

Unfortunately, the lower standards didn’t matter and I still didn’t post over the last month and a half.

When I first started writing, I knew that there were going to be times when I was going to be tested. I knew that there were going to be weeks when it felt impossible to put out a blog post, but I expected myself to step up to the challenge. When I started this blog, I was excited to see if I actually could step up. I kept it up for over a year and I was pretty proud of myself. There were weeks when it was hard, but given the nature of the things I was writing, it was too hard for me to stop writing and create a relationship with myself where I know myself as someone who doesn’t step up to the challenge.

Recently, I feel like I’ve been truly tested and I let it take me out for over a month. (I’m hoping I can publicly speak on this in a few months.) I reluctantly admit that I’ve allowed the chaos of life to interrupt what I was building.

In fact, I let the chaos convince me that what I was building wasn’t even worth the energy at all.

This was the worst part. I fooled myself into believing that nothing was better than something. This gave way to nihilism, victimization, and apathy. All three of which I don’t have the luxury to entertain.

Once I realized that these were just ideas going on in my head, I was able to separate my actions from my thoughts.

A wise man never believes every thought that enters his head.

Now I’m in a place where I can actively choose to not let this take me down. I can more effectively resist the temptation to self-destruct or abandon all commitments.

The chaos of the recent months is not going to destroy my blog, my YouTube channel, or any of my other creative pursuits.

I cannot let it, especially since the chaos is not of a tragic nature. The disarray is not tragic and, if I can help it, the results of it should not be either. I shall not let a good thing destroy creation. I must look deeper within myself to find the strength to choose to contribute to “more life” rather than death or “less life.”

I can detach from the part of me that wants to give in and make room for more intentional thought habits.

We can overcome trials with a certain level of detachment.

When we’re tested, there are perspectives we can take on that will crush us under pressure and ones that allow us to act with more freedom.

Detachment can be a fine line. Seeing the situation, not from our own perspective, but from another point of view that doesn’t take our personal feelings into account gives us the freedom to act in an intentional way rather than reactionary.

However, it’s possible to be too detached. I feel like that happened to me over the past few weeks and it’s the underlying cause of my stumble.

If I allowed myself to simply give in to what I felt I needed, I wouldn’t be writing this blog post, nor have plans for future blog posts. The real tragedy would be the premature death of all of the other creative works I’ve planned around this blog and the lives that would have been touched by those works are left without its influence. I felt like I needed to stop writing and focus on more practical elements of life, but that’s not meaningful enough for me.

While there are practical elements to consider, completely abandoning my creative pursuits would be me choosing “less life”.

It would be meaning dampening down my will.

Extinguishing the white-hot fire within me that makes me human.

It would be destroying my own potential.

Now, I have to give credit where credit is due because I did not come to this conclusion completely on my own through a detached perspective. There were a series of external influences that helped push me in this direction.

I have to thank my students and my fellow writers for reaching out to me during my hiatus. Although no one was explicitly concerned that I wasn’t writing anything or even knew that I was considering dropping it altogether, they all showed me that my work matters way more than I thought it did. The combination of people emailing me to write for my blog and my students asking me about my books and music showed me that I do not create in a vacuum.

I will also have to give a mention to Rollo May’s The Courage to Create. It’s full of fantastic quotes that I felt were pertinent to what I was dealing with.

“If you do not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself. Also you will have betrayed our community in failing to make your contribution to the whole.”

Rollo May (The Courage to Create)

My creative projects have a nontrivial influence on people and I cannot throw that away simply because I’m overwhelmed.

In the thick of my trials and tribulations, I forgot about the world I’ve been working so hard to create.

I forgot that I had a vision for a better future.

I forgot that I sacrificed day in and day out to bring about this vision.

I forgot that I sold other people on this vision – a world where people can live their life by design.

I forgot that I actually love writing and sharing ideas.

I forgot that being creative revivifies me and imbues my life with meaning.

And so I humbly admit that I’ve stumbled.

I did not have a perfect run of things, but that is okay because I am standing back up. I will be up and running in time, but I have to acknowledge that I’m not as strong of a writer as I was when I was being consistent.

However, I do have something new to bring to the table – more wisdom and a more experienced perspective. I still have the willingness to improve, which is the most important ingredient to getting back on my feet.

I’m going to start slow, aim at consistency, and remember that creativity makes me and the world better.

I’m going to fall back in love with the research, learning, and writing process.

I’m going to let go of the judgment and contempt I have for myself in failing to reach my commitments.

Forgiveness of the self is crucial.

While I acknowledge that I probably have enough to finish my book, I want to work on learning more and synthesizing these ideas deeper. I want the process to be full of passion so the book comes out that much richer.

While I learned a lot during my hiatus, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that my younger self has real wisdom in him. Usually, when I look back on younger versions of myself, I can’t believe how foolish I was. But now, for the first time, I am surprised by the wisdom and forethought I had. For the first time (that I’m aware of), my future self wasn’t as wise as my past self and that makes me really happy. To me, it’s evidence that I’m growing and I have my own best interests at heart (which isn’t always obvious to me). I’ve developed a new trust in myself that I cannot accurately describe and I hope to take it with me during this journey.

We’ll be tried. We’ll stumble. We’ll rise again.

I’m excited to get back into creating and I hope it’s a fruitful as it once was.

I’m placing my bets on my ability to get back up and I think everyone else should too.

By Chris

During the day, I’m a tutor and EMT.
In the evenings, I like to blog and produce music.