Yesterday I asked my followers on tumblr what their current struggles are in their creative endeavors (this question is always open, find me on social media or email firstname.lastname@example.org), and got a few great responses. They felt so universal and have been difficulties that I’ve faced before, so I wanted to dedicate a full post to them.
The first response I received was this, “I make music in a band, and being the vocalist my biggest road block is finding new subjects to write about.”
That’s why I want to talk about what I call Gathering, though I can’t take credit for the term as it came from my sister, an author, when I was reaching out to her with similar concerns. Gathering is a what I now consider a normal and needed phase of any and all creative pursuits. Periodically there comes a time when what you need is to actually take a break from focused practice and production, and break out.
That might mean simply experimenting with a different medium or subject matter for a while (or a different instrument, say), or just being around friends, taking a road trip, or seeing all the movies that are in the theater this week. Some might call this a taking a break, but there’s a nuance here. A break is needed when you are exhausted and need to rebuild your lost vital energy stores. When you don’t even have energy to cook yourself dinner or see friends. Gathering is needed when you’ve got all the energy you need for life, or even to show up in front of the page, but, for various reasons, you’ve suddenly got nothing to give to your art.
The place of gathering is not a place to rest, and I’ve noticed that it’s important to keep it in check or it can get added to a list of excuses for engaging in distractions rather than doing your work. It requires honesty with yourself and trust. It is also very different than “waiting for inspiration.” If you wait for inspiration you’ll rarely create. The muse doesn’t make house calls, you’ve got to continue showing up to her mountain and hiking her trails.
When you’re dedicated to your art most down time becomes a time of gathering. Gathering what? Inspiration. Light. Angles. Stories. Remember what lights your heart aflame, and how to stoke the flames of others. When you need it, if you’ve forgotten, compassionately give yourself this time to remember that this passion is endless, and you’ll suddenly be in awe that you ever “ran out” of subject matter.