What if I suggested that the first stage of creativity is unhappiness?
"Yeah, well, welcome to Monday," you might retort. "Considering how unhappy I am about going back to work today, I must be going to have one hell of a creative week."
Could be, could be. . .but it all depends. . .
I'm going to start out this week by telling you one version of a story I have heard told in a lot of different forms.
Let's say there's a woman. She gets pregnant. She's 34, been trying to conceive for a while, so this is a very welcome pregnancy. At the fifth month, she miscarries. Over Christmas. Afterwards, people ask her, "How are you?" "I'm fine," she says. "Fine," she insists. She goes skiing three weeks later and cries all the way down the mountain. "It's only because I'm out of shape," she says. "Really, though, I'm fine."
She seems to be fine. For a year, she gets along. . .fine.
The next Christmas rolls around. One day she's shopping and suddenly she feels an overwhelming urge to sit on the curb of the busy street and weep. She has no idea where this profound feeling of loss and sorrow has come from--until she realizes it is a year since the miscarriage, and suddenly she admits to herself, after a whole year of denial, that she is not so "fine."
She finally lets herself grieve. A need to express that grief in words arises. She begins writing poetry. It's not bad stuff. Some of it gets published. A couple of her poems win prizes. And then suddenly she wants to write short stories. They're not great, but they're not bad, either. And then she wants to write novels. For the next two years, creativity pours out of her in a joyous stream, tempered only by the rejections she receives for her early work. In the spring of the third year after the miscarriage, two things happen: she gets pregnant again, and a New York publisher buys her book.
And then, four years. . .TO THE DAY. . .after she left the hospital following the miscarriage, she walks out of the same hospital with her newborn son. While she was in the hospital this time, her first published novel went on sale at bookstores all over the country.
It all started with unhappiness, or rather with her full admission of her unhappiness, and when I say "admission," I mean both the full confession and the full feeling of it. When that dam broke, many kinds of creativity surged through.
You've probably guessed that woman was me. But I'm only one small version of a many-times told tale of unhappiness turning into creativity. In the book about the emotional journey of writing that I wrote with psychologist Lynn Lott, Unhappiness was the first of our 7 Steps on the Writer's Path. This week I feel like exp0ring this subject, and a Monday is the obvious place to start.
I wish you a most, awful, terrible, unhappy Monday, if that's what it takes to get your creative fires glowing.