When you lose your creative fire

Two weeks ago I was enjoying a creative season of unusual lushness. Words poured out of me faster than my fingers could type. I was a woman on fire who saw my path clearly: say no to this, launch this, do that, put this other thing on hold. I worked on my Dear Artist course, relaunched my website, wrote articles, made downloadable pdfs, and filled page after page with outlines, dreams, plans...and much more.

And then my grandfather died. My husband and I found ourselves heading east, back to my birthplace, back to my Northern Kentucky roots. We were away for a week, pressed up close to life and death and everything in between. Our return trip took longer than expected as we drove slow through the backroads of Missouri and Tennessee, traveled the gorgeous curves of the Talimena National Scenic Byway in Oklahoma and, 39 hours after leaving Louisville, arrived home. Since then, life has been a swirl of laundry and naps and watching Stranger Things and generally...feeling lost. Uprooted. Trying to pick up where I left off and not feeling successful.

Next week is a family wedding and I'll be out of town again—for joy this time—and yet, in the meantime, I'm behind on texts and emails and projects. Important dates on my calendar feel like flashing red alarms. My creative fire has darkened to a barely-there burn and the old familiar panic wants to set in because that is what always happened before...overwhelm followed by shut down (and then depression).

But it is different this time. It has to be, because I am. I am no longer willing to bid farewell to my passions and dreams or sacrifice them to the whims and whirlwinds of life. No. Instead they must be lithe and malleable. Responsive to and strengthened by life, not choked out by it.

In Dear Artist I talk about creative rhythms—the cycles and seasons of our creative lives which certainly include the unexpected ways life can stop us in our tracks through birth, death, and other re-routing. These detours can serve us, if we have the eyes to see. They season us, add depth and flavor to our work and richness to our story.

This is only possible when we allow ourselves the gift of our own presence. When we have the courage to STAY...to grieve when death happens, to rejoice when new life begins, to look for backroads over the mountains when the highway is too much. It takes bravery, curiosity and heaps of grace. And grace looks like gas-station coffee and inside jokes and the client email that says, “Please take all the time you need.“

When this grace happens to you, note it. Bow your heart and give thanks. Because this, this is what nourishes your creative fire.

Hillary McFarland