Editor’s note: Working to fulfill our creative dreams can be daunting at times and finding ways to navigate the ebb and flow of this journey can provide a newfound energy or inspiration to move forward. Creativity Coach, Holly Shaw has published a book that provides a variety of insights on this process, and here are a few short selections. To purchase The Creative Formula, visit amazon.com.
I’m Done. Now What? So, that’s finished! Phew! …Um, now what? A frequent problem that performers and creators come to me with is keeping momentum. I know professionals who are brilliant at making one piece, but experience a terrible depression afterward that they have to drag themselves out of before making anything else again. Make space for fear by taking time off, and it can sometimes creep in. But I also know very successful and prolific artists who have figured out how to keep their momentum and survive the dips from one project to the next.
How to Keep Momentum from One Project to the Next If you’re someone who has trouble getting started in the first place, then there are a few things to consider before you’re done with this project that will help catapult you into the next one without dipping too far into a lull. It takes tremendous energy to pull yourself up and get started all over again.
What helps me finish the current project is thinking about the next one. Honestly, I always have multiple projects I’m working on at various stages. I don’t try to make them all happen at once, but I do keep many projects on the back burner. It’s the same theory as Benjamin Franklin’s Lazy Susan, which I mention in the chapter “Divide and Conquer.” I always have incredible ideas for something when I’m not focused on it and hence not pressured, so I’ve set myself up to expect this and plan for it. I always start creating a folder for something the minute I know it’s a potential project. As I have ideas about it, I jot them down in my notebook and then later I rip that page out and put it in the right folder for that future project. Then, guess what? When my current project is over I have a folder full of notes, already getting me well on my way with the next one.
Know When to Realign Momentum is a buzzword right now, and I totally get why. Sometimes the toughest part of making anything is just getting started. So why not avoid that altogether, get started once, and then ride the wave of momentum forevermore? I’m all for it. But I do think there are some of us who need a flat-out break. If you find your life falling apart, if you feel disconnected from your family or your friends, if you find yourself turning to drugs or alcohol on a regular basis, if you don’t sleep on a regular schedule, but you do cry on one, then you should take a break. Stop the momentum. There’s no reason to continue a spiral when it’s a downward one. You really do need a reset and it’s ok. You got going once; you can do it again.
Understand the Dip Anytime I end a workshop intensive or I’m working with a performer who has just finished a run of performances, I advise them to take extra good gentle care of themselves. And then I wait for the inevitable call or email where they explain to me how low or depressed they feel as they return to a life that is less glamorous, and where they have to deal with laundry and paying bills. There is this thing that happens, this awesome suspension of “everyday,” that we as artists, creators, performers get to experience.
It is an exceptional life to lead, it’s hella fun, and we wonder why everyone else doesn’t want to do it too. The hyper-awareness and attunement that happen as we play in this special and magical world we’ve created can be awesome in the truest sense of the word. We are incredibly lucky. And coming back down to earth after that can be hard.
What is really happening is that we have expanded spiritually. A part of us, in these extremely focused states of Alignment, Allowing, and Articulation, has evolved. The rest of the people in our lives—family members, coworkers—just don’t seem to get it. A weekend of performances with all of the emotional and spiritual journey involved is tough to explain to someone who spent their weekend getting their car serviced and watching the game on TV. It’s tough for them to relate to the artistic evolutions that are not necessarily the same as most people’s everyday evolutions. They still treat us like we’re trudging along like everyone else. We want to yell at them,
“I’ve tasted something exceptional and I am different now! And I know this, so just accept it!”
Our being has expanded, but real life will take a while to catch up. This leaves a gap that you can fall into. It’s a hazardous trench with a long fall and a painful landing— though it does not end in death, just painful bruises. But it’s scary on the way down, so look out for it. Go slowly after your show run/transformational workshop/exhibit and be gentle with yourself. Eat something. Regroup. Reread the “Inhalation and Exhalation” section of this book under “Alignment.” You just did a big exhalation. It’s OK to be quiet and inhale for a while.
No, people will not forget you if you stay off social media for a few weeks.
Yes, all those glorious shifts in conscious- ness really did happen.
Nothing is lost. You are not dying. You are not depressed. You are just supposed to be with your friends and pay attention to your family and practice radical self-care. When you’re bored as shit, you’ll go back and clean out your artist brushes and get back into your studio for the next masterpiece.