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Dealing with creative ‘post partum’ depression

March 21, 2012

I’ve come to the end of a year’s worth of rewarding free-lance projects and have landed in the familiar murky place of ‘what now?’.  No matter how many times I experience this, it feels horrible. It is the flip side of the creative high (which is the feeling of being connected, engaged and doing something that matters). Instead, facing another unstructured day,  I feel afloat, low energy, and unable to find meaning in anything I am doing. (What makes it worse, is I know how lucky I am to have a series of days to fill in as I like. Those of you dreaming of having this should know that it can sometimes feel like an impossible responsibility to fill in unstructured time meaningfully).

I know from experience that one has to hold tight and navigate these periods- ie while I’m down here, might as well look around. And, that they do pass.

Luckily another genuine aid in these times is Eric Maisel’s beyond-excellent book, The van Gogh Blues, where he correctly identifies these kinds of artistic depressions as meaning crises. For example, if you know your life’s path is to paint, but none of your paintings sell, this can bring about a meaning crisis. Maisel gives clear advice on how to combat these sorts of dilemmas.  I also really love how he knows and acknowledges that creativity is a hard calling a lot of the time.

Here is a slightly paraphrased quote from the book:

The entire explanation for the birth of a novel, symphony, painting, scientific theory is that someone has nominated himself as a real worker in that field- has said, I can do this, ignores all cultural, social, religious and even psychological injunctions against becoming a fervent creator..

Poverty is simply a terrible inconvenience.

Failures are simply nasty facts of existence. Marketplace and institutional realities are simple factors to be braved and challenges to be met.

This is the heroism required of you: to reckon with the facts of your existence, to make hard choices, and to keep meaning afloat even as you struggle.

-Otto Rank, Art & Artists, quoted in E. Maisel’s The van Gogh Blues’

Continued in next post 

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