Advice Column #01: Falling Out of Love

Hey Kat,
I feel stuck in my work, but it feels different from writer’s block. Across the board — For painting, writing, baking, music, martial artistry — it’s the same. When I devote and focus on one project, my wheels spin. When I jump between disciplines to give my brain a break, nothing feels like it’s going anywhere.
It’s as though I’m no longer satisfied in my “marriage” with creativity. I’m a different person from the one who started a decade ago.
I don’t want to break up with this part of my life, but it’s not fulfilling anymore. How can I reframe, update, or revitalize this relationship?
Love,
Disenchanted
 

***

Dear Disenchanted,

First off, I love that your creative valence is so high. I mean valence in the chemical sense: your power to combine and interact with a lot of different elements to create something in the world. Thank you for being here and doing what you do.

There’s a William Blake quote I’m obsessed with: “Eternity is in love with the creations of time.” It takes some parsing, but stick with me, okay? 🤔

TIME
You and I are living a time-bound life. We’re ticking time bombs that will someday, somehow die. Much of our success on this planet depends on mostly forgetting this fact and carrying on. 🙈🙉🙊

CREATIONS
Look at all our extraordinary creations! Cities, governments, all manner of systems, the arts, sciences, medicine, food, religions, games. Not everything works well, but a lot of it really, really does.💡

ETERNITY
What Blake means by “eternity” is the sphere above and beyond us, an entirely different plane of reality. The entire thing might be pure consciousness or spirit, or higher beings might live there. They’re capable of being in love with the things that we make. I think of them as muses — the 9 daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne who preside over the arts and sciences.😍

You refer to your relationship with creativity as a lackluster, now ill-fitting marriage. I want to linger here for a moment, to understand how you currently frame creativity. Your “marriage to creativity” is a familiar story, one that plays out a lot in opinion-forming media. Depictions of suburban ennui in film come to mind: Love is a feeling, it was once there between the two characters, but things have changed and now it’s gone.

In your brief, beautiful note, you imply that you consider love to be a feeling — what you feel around someone who has you a bit spellbound, thanks to the neurons and hormones firing off in your brain. You asked me for a reframe; your self-awareness, wisdom and clarity were so evident in that request. Here is my offering:

Dear one, love is not a feeling. Love is something you build — like a castle or a cathedral — brick by brick, every day, and there are no shortcuts.

It looks like this:

You wake up in the morning and look at your beloved beside you. Feel your love for them, but please also decide to pour those feelings into action. Decide that all your words and actions that day will emanate from that love. Show up. Get clear. For as long as it holds true.

OK, let’s replace the person with your Creativity. You clearly love Creativity, and you act on it through your many outlets. I adore you for that. Be brutally honest with yourself though: are you showing up fully to your easel, blank page, kitchen, instrument, practice? Only you can say. Lastly, but most significant in your situation: getting clear. From where I sit, what’s mainly causing the stuck feeling is that right now, you’re not a clear channel. Your “wheels spin” and you hop from one discipline to another, “not going anywhere”. You’re generating lots of heat, but not necessarily light. And that sparkling, glimmering light is what you want, right? The kind that pours in through a south-facing window into your kitchen, through the water glasses sitting on the table.

Disenchanted, I think there’s tension in your tissues. Your heart and mind are crackling with a sense of unease or malaise. In that state, the muses can't speak through you. Right now, maybe your creative outlets are just distraction from the discomfort. I invite you to sit with the unease, really feel it and let it cycle through you before picking up your tools. 😳

The muses love when you take good care of your mind, body, and spirit; that’s how you become a nice, big microphone for them. They also love devotion and consistency. They smile and alert each other: “Yes! That one knows what’s up. Let's visit often.”

You say you’re a different person than 10 years ago. Sure, it’s possible painting, writing, music, baking, and martial arts don’t speak to you anymore. But may I be bold? I think what you’ve really outgrown is the pervasive, "high highs, low lows" concept of romantic love — your relationship to Creativity is based on this, it seems. Try instead to think of love/creativity as something you must build. I guarantee: if you build it, the muses will come.

With all my love and intelligence,
Kat