Creativity, stability, and grace

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The author working on a woven bracelet in August 2019 Submitted by Julia Peterson

Sometimes, the best thing you can do for your creative practice is to take a step back

I like making things.

In fact, I’m a much happier, more focused person when I have some sort of craft situation going on. I always used to time my study sessions around how long it would take a loaf of bread to rise, brought beadwork to lectures and once repaired an entire multi-layered petticoat while on a coffee shop date.

And when I’m at the computer, I love taking some time to work on my fiction, filling pages and pages with notes and notions for a completely garbage “draft zero” before going back and editing it into something I can really be proud of.

That’s why I was so surprised to look up a few weeks ago and realize – “hey, I’ve started wanting to make things again!” Which was quickly followed by the realization – “hold on a second, when did I stop wanting to make things?”

It wasn’t as though I rolled out of bed one day and decided to pack away the needles and novelling. Over the last year-and-a-bit, I’ve carted my craft supplies across four cities and two countries, even when I didn’t have a lot of space and had to make tough decisions about what to leave behind. 

But it’s been a difficult couple of years. Money was tight, school was intense, workdays were long and at the end of the day, if I finally had a little time, I rarely had the energy to pick up yet another project. And if I did happen to have a little bit of energy left over, I didn’t feel justified spending it on something that wasn’t going to help with rent, tuition or groceries.

That didn’t stop me from trying to continue some parts of my creative practice. I had internalized the message that “writers write.” That is to say, you can’t wait for the inspiration/motivation/ideal circumstances that might never arrive; you just have to keep showing up at the blank page and putting words on it until something good happens. So I kept working on my fiction throughout this whole period of what I now realize was creative burnout. But I wasn’t enjoying it. It was a slog. I struggled to see projects through or even make any progress on them, and I kept wondering what I was doing wrong. Where was the fun? Where was the spark? And I thought if I just kept throwing myself at this brick wall, I was bound to eventually break through. 

But, of course, that’s not what happened.

Because, yes, “writers write” and “makers make” – but not all the time. Sometimes writers rest. Sometimes makers let their craft supplies sit idle for a while as they focus on other things. And that’s not just okay, it’s necessary. 

For my own part, my creativity has started coming back six months after the most chaotic parts of my life stabilized. My finances are in order, I’m able to get regular exercise and rest, and I’m living with wonderful people. 

Even now, I’m not back to the same creative output I used to have, but I’m getting back into the habit of joyful creativity, and it feels wonderful. 

For so many reasons, this year has been tough on a lot of us, and while I believe we will find our way to better days, I also know we’re not there yet. 

So if, in the face of everything going on around you, you have been struggling to pick up your creative projects: give yourself grace. 

Rest. Refocus. Find peace where you can. 

Your creativity will be there when you’re ready. 

Julia Peterson

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