The Darker Side of Creativity

The creative life isn’t all epic sunrises and sunsets. pc: pixels.com

There’s definitely a darker side to the creative lifestyle. As great and special as it is to be engaged in full-time creative pursuits, it’s not all epic sunrises and sunsets. There is a lot of grayness to the life of a creative.

Some feel it more than others. I’m one of those people. I’m an empath as described in this article on The Mind Unleashed. My wonderful girlfriend Karen said to me just this morning,

“It must be exhausting to be so tuned into your own feelings all the time. It’s not like you can shut it off.”

And she’s right. I can’t shut off my bent toward feeling the pain, emotion, or challenges of others and having those elements become part of my own reality. But such is the darker side of the creative, empathic life.

Van Gogh, Kurt Cobain, Hemingway, et al

There are tragic figures throughout history who didn’t deal with their darker side in a healthy way. Many of these individuals opted for self-medication via alcohol, opiates, or other drugs instead of working through their periods of depression or funks as I call it.

It’s easier to self-medicate than to confront one’s darker side. For those of us who refuse to give into the more harmful substances freely available, there is little choice but to confront the issues and emotions head on.

Yesterday was such a day for me. I tell this story not to garner sympathy (I can’t stand that), but to offer a view of the flip side of creativity that many aren’t aware of and to which many fall victim.

The Funks That Kick My Butt

Yesterday I was in a funk. It came upon me gradually after a few hours of working on business items that have come to occupy a great deal of my time since my father’s death exactly three months ago. I wasn’t aware of the significance of the date at the time and it was Karen who mentioned it to me this morning. 💡

Estate issues aren’t for the weak. After spending half of my day on items related to various bank accounts and survivor benefits for my mother, I tried to shift to more creative pursuits. Having already experienced frustration with the various mega-corporations in the banking industry, it was unrealistic to think I could write a post from the heart, the only way I can write with any efficacy.

So instead, I worked on the mechanics, the backside of my website so to speak, the behind-the-scenes stuff known only to WordPress control freaks like me. I worked in ConverKit, my awesome email processing software, and other aspects of planning for Getting Paid To Write in the Digital Age.

And after a few hours, I’d had enough.

When Nothing Works

When I’m in such a funk, nothing satisfies me. I tried to watch some YouTube videos but switched off after a few minutes. I tried to read, but experienced similar results. When I get to this point, I often just take a nap and usually wake up after an hour feeling much better. However, sleep wasn’t in the offing.

When nothing works, there is only one option — to persevere and lean in.

I mentioned above about being an empath. It explains why I was never happy working within a corporation or part of a cohesive team. I think that a lot of creatives are empaths and that it prevents us from bonding in the ways that non-empaths can and often do in highly functioning teams.

If you were to read my resume’s Special Skills section, it might contain the following:

  • doesn’t play well with others
  • gets sucked into the vortex of his own head
  • distrusts large corporations

It’s probably why I don’t have a resume and why I don’t work in a traditional setting any longer. Instead, I have my feelings….those dark, wonderful, ecstatic feelings that make me who I am.

You Shall Not Pass

Gandalf: You cannot pass! I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the Flame of Anor. The dark fire will not avail you, Flame of Udun! Go back to the shadow. You shall not pass!

Even though it feels like this line from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, it does pass. For all the pain associated with possessing the double whammy of Nature’s bounty -being both an empath and a creative- the funks always pass.

When they do, they give way to a lighter state of being. Sometimes a nap turns it around, and sometimes -like yesterday- I have to just be with it, lean into it, and endure the specialness of my reality until it shifts.

There are two sides to every coin. Though being a creative and, in my case, an empath as well, can present the dual nature of reality in terms of funk and non-funk, like the tattoo on my right forearm that proclaims, ‘no mud, no lotus; no darkness, no light’ … I accept that both funk and non-funk are essential for me to exist.

There cannot be one without the other.