I feel like shit.
There is nothing.
I do other things, less important things, things I could give or take. Like washing the floor, or doing my taxes.
I feel like every task is time-wasting. I notice there are a lot of assholes around. I feel fat. I stop wanting to have sex. Actually, it’s hard to be touched in general. I am able to communicate with people on a superficial level but in the back of my head there is a rock that is hot and heavy and it hurts and puts me in a bad mood. Phrases like “ I suck” “I’m worthless” I am deluding myself” and “I have nothing to offer the world” are most prevalent in the hot rock time.
There is also this persistent pressure in my gut, like a filleting knife pressed up against my ribs. It has the potential for disemboweling me at any moment so I am careful of how I twist during the day, how I move, how I get up, how I lay down. This knife-like-pressure is always there- it causes a great amount of anxiety and takes a lot of attention. But nothing I do seems to move the blade away from my insides.
Except, of course-doing something.
But I can’t.
There is nothing to do.
Or there are a million things to do and I don’t know where to start so it’s easier to deal with the knife.
This is the worst stage.
This stage lasts a while, sometimes a month or a year- depending on the scope of my dreams and goals. I have no idea if and when it will ever end.
And then…. quietly, without any warning, usually while lying in bed at night trying to fall asleep I feel a twitch, a little glimmer or sentence or imagining. I think “I’ll hold on to that and write it down tomorrow” but I cannot. I can’t sleep. It’s like a big hand is lifting me and rolling me around in bed and the anxiety almost takes on the colour of purple and red passion and I think “Oh fuck it” and I get up and I write. I get the little bugger baby seed down. It feels good. I feel open. My chest feels like it has more room to take breath in and I fall asleep.
I read what I wrote in the morning and it’s not as good as it was at 1am but having the feeling of taking action gives me something to hold onto so, with less pain, I start my day.
But again, I’m not happy. I don’t want to be doing the dishes, paying the bills, writing the grant.
I want to be doing what I am supposed to be doing.
But I don’t know what that is yet?
I say things to myself like “this anxiety is a close cousin to excitement”. I say “enjoy the process.” I say “if I don’t crack this nut I WILL LOSE MY SHIT” so I start to spend my days trying to do less of what I have to do so there is space to find out what my innards are saying.
This period is when I’m the worst to be around. I want to give but I still have nothing to give so I’m resentful and tight with time. I may lash out at loved ones, blaming their presence in my life as the reason I am not getting enough work complete.
In the next span of many months, the infrequent inspirations come and go, the dark voices and self-hatred also ebb and flow. There are tiny moments of great self-pleasure and purpose. There are mini-times of surety. I feel like I (capital I) have less to do with the making of the thing and my real job is to create space for the creativity to sneak out and around all my bullshit. I feel like all I have to do is something, anything and the rest will unfold. The river has its twists and turns and I am in her flow. Looking in from the outside, I get the bulk of the work done during this stage. This is where the flesh of the idea is slow-cooked and seasoned on a rotisserie. It’s a mess but it’s juicy. I can smell the potential.
I am very grateful for these late night tastes of peace. In this stage I am generous with my friends, I may take a shot of tequila at a dinner party. I’m really living life ya’ know. I feel good. I feel useful. I feel like I’m helping God out and doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I laugh a lot. This is my favourite time. This is what it’s all for. The making of the magical thingy.
And I may share a bit of it with someone and they don’t tell me “it’s perfect and I’m a genius” so I quit for a few days and I get black tar heart again but I still plug away, not because I have an ultimate vision, not because I have any confidence but because doing something, anything at all allows me to sleep through the night. I find solace from the hot rock and twisting knife by eking out little bits of material. It is the pure fear of innard discomfort that keeps me going.
And at some point, at a time I can never predict, this thing that’s been haunting me is kind of made. I shine bright and I fuck up a bit and give everything I have. I try my very best. Some people like it and some people don’t. Most people don’t care. I consider deeply what critics and community members think. It’s finished and it’s okay. There is no rush of endorphins, there is no ego power drug that takes over and makes it all worthwhile. There are no dancing girls. Or a poofy dress. Instead, there’s a small flame and some gentle pleasure. The main peace comes in that it’s done. I followed the call. And that makes me cry a bit.
This is a time where I may choose to go on vacation.
This is the time I feel shiny and sexy and calm. I eat a lot of salads and chips.
And then… one night soon… as I’m lying in bed, I cannot sleep. I feel like shit because there is nothing.
There is absolutely nothing.
And it begins again.