When You Feel Creatively Drained

In not even the last seven months, I’ve posted over 200 articles and curated two collections of my writing for self publishing, one being a ‘poetry’ collection — or at least my version of one. Aside from publishing something here on Medium everyday I’ve also began freelancing for two other independent websites. I’ve gone from someone who wasted his talent and potential to a dedicated, paid, published and (semi) professional writer.

All of that to say, some days I open up my computer or notebook and I can’t help but just stare at it blankly. There’s times I feel like I’ve ran out of words and ideas. As if there is no original idea left. I can be so self critical it becomes paralyzing. I come up with potential ideas and an inner voice says “But nobody wants to read that”. You see, I have a love/hate relationship with my inner critic. I’m grateful for him for he holds me to a higher standard. He knows what I’m capable of when I’m at peak performance and rarely accepts any less. When I want to ‘phone in’ a post so to speak, my inner critic knows. It’s at that point I question what I’ve written, from start to finish. Holding yourself to a higher standard is good but expecting perfection is debilitating.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time lately pondering early massive success. Those who creatively come out of the gate with their best work, sell millions of copies and are then held to that standard for the rest of their career. Held to that standard by not only fans of their work but more importantly, by themselves. It’s what everyone just comes to expect out of them and anything less is widely criticized. It is my belief this type of success is both a blessing and a curse. It sets the bar so high to begin with that anytime we come up short of it after feels like failure and it’s simply not true.

Before I started writing this I sat at my desk listening to Eminem’s new song Walk On Water, where he discusses what it’s like to have your art picked apart and the insecurities that come with it. The song is basically a reminder that even massively successful superstars such as him and Beyonce’, who is featured on the track, are still just flawed human beings. He expresses what it feels like to be massively successful early in your career and have everything you create after inevitably be compared to it, even though you basically know you’ll never again reach those heights or meet the standards of the people who expect you to. He discusses in depth what it feels like to feel as though you are coming up short creatively.

It was a song I needed to hear because it served as a reminder of just how human we all are. Growing up, I recall literally wishing I had Eminem’s level of talent. Not the money or success but the ability to do what he does with words, in the fashion he does. It was refreshing to hear I’m not the only one who feels like his work often comes up short and that no amount of massive success ever helps you escape that feeling. It also reminded me we’re always our own worst critic and even the most talented people in the world deal with these insecurities and self criticisms. Perhaps it is even these self created higher standards that make them the most talented at what they do.

What’s most important to me today is showing up and putting the work in. That is the only part of this in my control. There will be days I come up short and beat myself up for it just like there will be days posts I felt could and should have been better go on to be far more successful than I believed they would be. And some of my favorites will go on unnoticed. It’s just apart of it. A part I’ve come to terms with and will never use as an excuse to not show up.