The Creative’s Curse

An insight into the mind of someone following their dream

“Why do you want to shut out of your life any uneasiness, any misery, any depression, since after all you don’t know what work these conditions are doing inside you? Why do you want to persecute yourself with the question of where all this is coming from and where it is going?  Since you know, after all, that you are in the midst of transitions and you wished for nothing so much as to change. If there is anything unhealthy in your reactions, just bear in mind that sickness is the means by which an organism frees itself from what is alien; so one must simply help it to be sick, to have its whole sickness and to break out with it, since that is the way it gets better.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

Today has been one of those days where it feels like there is no way forward.  These days happen to everyone.  For a long time everyday was like this.  

I was diagnosed with depression and acute anxiety when I was fifteen and given anti depressants.  The swift diagnosis happened after a doctor went through a questionnaire with me, you know, the ‘on a scale of one to ten how likely are you to harm yourself’ form.  I was never really in any danger of harming myself but through the eight years of this depressive psychological torture there were points when I would have taken it all away just to stop feeling.  But, I didn’t.  

My father was diagnosed with early onset alzheimers when I was eleven and died seven years later after a sad decline into a shell of what he once was.  I couldn’t really process it directly and chose to bury it all away, look in the other direction and pretend it wasn’t happening.  My aloof character still comes out when I’m under emotional stress but this process of looking away will only ever send me into a very lonely corner.  

At twenty three years old and after finishing university I was at my worst.  I remember my mum climbing into bed with me at 3am one night saying she’d had a dream that I’d hung myself and that I must promise never to do it.  She could see I was in pain.  Fortunately, around that time, I was granted access to CBT – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy with a guy named Eddy.  I’ll never forget his name although I couldn’t tell you what he looked like (which is odd for me because it’s normally the other way round).  He told me how to analyse and go back to the ‘root thought’ that triggered whatever emotional meltdown was underway.  It was revolutionary.  I realised that so much of my life was based on incorrect assumptions which had been coded at an early age.  

My main problem was self-loathing.  It’s still my biggest neurosis.  Like a hulking great monster it rears it’s familiar head every now and then and tells me that I’m totally useless at everything and that I should just give up, look away and hide in the ever decreasing corner.   I believe this is the curse of the creative.  Our abilities are besmirched by our own brain, telling us that we are not good enough and never will be. 

Perhaps it’s something to do with the fact that our minds work differently to others – some call it laziness.  It’s not as cut and dry as that though.  I have periods where I work fervently, passionately.  Other times, I can barely put the kettle on.  This is very confusing when you’re trying to self-evaluate and your internal lens is set on cynical mode.  You only ever think about the times you didn’t finish the painting, or you let someone down, or you didn’t ring your nan yet.

So today has been one of those days.  I think I read somewhere that the moon is doing something weird.  Mercury retrograde or something.  I have no idea whether this is all tied together but I can tell you the last few days have been an uphill battle against the monsters.  Alongside this one of the pieces I spent a long time on for a commission was rejected by the client.  I don’t think it was to do with the quality of the work (or at least I’m telling myself that) I think it’s do with his own monsters.

I tried to paint earlier.  I’m entering a competition to put a series of paintings together for a museum in Exeter and trying to create four mini paintings to show my plans.  I had to rip it up and throw it in the fire.  It was awful.  It’s not always a good idea to try to fix the external problems before you’ve assessed the internal ones. 

So what’s to be done? 

Well fortunately I have found someone to share my life with who understands exactly what I’m going through.  He sat me down, gave me a big hug and let me feel sorry for myself without judgement.  He helped me to work through my thoughts and we devised a plan;

Go to the shop and get chocolate. Stat.

That’s all you need sometimes.  Just that one thing to get you through the next hour.  Drink a big glass of water.  Sing a song.  Eat some good food.  Have a bath. 

I have no money, no assets and no financial security of any kind.  I can’t even afford to go to the dentist to fix an ongoing toothache.  But I am doing something I believe in.  Even that thought fails momentarily, but it is soothing to know that if I died tomorrow I would have given life a try.

So instead of forcing myself to create, I’m taking a day off tomorrow.  It’s strange how much guilt comes with this decision but it just goes to show how inherent this self-deprication is.  I haven’t actually had a day of not working on something in a long time.  As a creative it’s not always easy to see your own progress and this makes it difficult to assess your own evolution.  You are always chipping away at new projects, slowly building.  It’s easier to see this progress over a long period of time but again, not through the cynical lens.

Perhaps the torn up painting was a big step forward.  A step out of a cul-de-sac and a way to learn what doesn’t work. It is NOT a failure.  It is an opportunity for growth. 

This is for everyone out there who is in pain.  As REM say ‘Everybody hurts, so hold on’.  

So hold on.  If we should take anything from…well, anything, it is that we are not alone.  YOU are not alone.  I am not alone.  Don’t be frightened of your own failings.  Do NOT let the tide wash you away.  Invite the monster in for tea and give it a biscuit.  It’s probably just as scared of you as you are of it.

I send this out there so that it may find you when you need it.  


Photo by Kyle Johnson on Unsplash

3 Replies to “The Creative’s Curse”

  1. I’m so glad you have put all this into words. You are and have always been so talented with art, words, music and everything you do. You have always worried about your self worth. If only some of us had your talents we would be so proud. You do have so many talents please try not to doubt yourself. This quote has got me through so many sad and bad times. “Nothing matters very much and very little matters at all” please don’t doubt yourself. I’m so glad you have your man who knows what to say or not what to say. We all love you very much. People around the world see your talents every day. See the positives.

    Liked by 1 person

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