The Soul of the Matter: Create or fade away…

I’m an overwhelmed writer who’s been hiding from my writing for a week or two…or three. But not writing makes me feel even more overwhelmed. It’s not a cliche. Whether you’re an artist or not, if you’re not interacting with what inspires you in the world, you’re pretty much guaranteed to make whatever funk’s messing with you worse.


It’s easy to feel burned out these days. As parents and business people and friends and lovers and, yes, creators of things that inspire others, we’re doing more each day and often getting paid less, which means if we want to pay our bills that even more doing looms on the horizon. And our souls can suffer, bottoming out and leaving us in a mental fetal position where we feel we have nothing else to give ourselves or others.

And then it’s not quite winter anymore and not quite spring, and crawling under the covers (at least mentally) and feeling blue seems like a good one-day, short-term solution…until it turns into weeks of letting ourselves off the hook.

soul weary tree

It’s so easy to stop interacting with what challenges us and feeds us at the same time. It’s human nature when we’re on overload to scale things back to the bare minimum. We get the day-to-day done that keeps the water coming out of the faucets and lights on, while we’re emotionally absent in ways that at first protect us, but then begin to drain us.

There’s a common ground to find. There’s a balance we need to seek, instead of the oblivion of just turning our creative, vulnerable, softer side off for a while, so it can lick its wounds.

We think backing away from what makes us uniquely us (and the part of us that’s so exhausted, because we’ve put so much of ourselves out there already) is the answer. And maybe for a a day or two, it is. But not feeling stressed (or telling ourselves that’s the ideal) is a gateway drug. For a day or two, it’s a lovely zen. Then it becomes a hideout, and then an addiction in which we convince ourselves that we don’t want to go to that stressed place again. Ever.

Creatively, stress is most often what drives us. Peace and balance is essential, yes. But all humans strive to create SOMETHING. We create or we fade away, because we’ve been put here to be something unique that no one else can be. And when we choose to not be that something, because being it can be the hardest thing we will ever do, we’re denying the very inspiration that feeds our weary souls. We’re NOT balanced in those too-quiet moments that stretch into days and weeks. We’re not stressed, but we’re not living either. We’re hiding.


Hiding from who we are and what we’re meant to do is just as damaging as feeling overwhelmed and burned out. Don’t do that. Not more than a day or two of regrouping–not if you have any choice in the matter. I’ve been in that place where you can’t bounce back. I lived in-between like that for over a year. I had no choice. Everything had to stop. And so much of my creativity faded away, I wondered for a time if I’d ever get it back. That’s where I believe a lot of people stall, and tell themselves they can’t handle the crush and the rush and the flood of conflict that comes with diving back into the most challenging parts of their lives–the creative parts that make you feel most vulnerable and alive. It’s a seductive place, built to make you believe you’re better there, when what you’re really doing is being afraid of going back to your chaotic life. You’re fading.

I have a choice now. This week, I’m claiming that choice, whether it’s reasonable or I’m ready or not. No matter how tempting the numbness of hiding, I want to be me more. Me when I’m thriving. Me when I’m working on an edge that’s so precarious, I’m challenging myself to grow. Me, believing when there’s no reason to trust that all will be well, that I can keep going and find my center in my creativity and learn how to relax into conflict instead of needing to hide away from it because of the insecurities that come with being who and what I am.

red flower through boardwalk

Me when I’m creating.

Me when I’m thriving.

Me when I’m believing in myself.


Me, me, me me…

No, this isn’t a narcissistic post.

Well, not much of one.

It’s actually a come-to-Jesus post to myself that I don’t mind sharing, because I think we all go into the shadows every now and then, and we need to, but we also need to come out sooner rather than later and get back to reality. We need to recuperate, but we need to live. We need to rest, but we need to work. We need solitude, but we need community. We are alive, no matter how burned out we might be, and we never should forget that.

I’m not an extrovert, and I don’t expect myself to be, particularly when I’m exhausted from writing three novels in twelve months and I have at least two more to write this calendar year. But I don’t sleep or eat or feel well when I pull so totally back from my creative life I disconnect from what feeds me. Despite my self-imposed break, I wrote a new proposal last week. I wrote the first two pages of a new novel yesterday. And after weeks of “resting” that wasn’t working, I slept through the night for the first time last night. Because I’m creating again, regardless of whether I was ready to again. I couldn’t afford NOT to.

Create or fade away, that’s the soul of the matter this week.

Don’t fade away. The world needs more of you and what you uniquely bring to it, not less.

And you need more of the world and how it drives you to be who and what you are. That’s the balance. That’s the secret. Trust the “real” work you do, to bring you rest, even when you feel the need to stop altogether. Reconnect with your soul, yes. But reconnect with why you do what you do best, and get back to that as quickly as you possibly can. The other details can wait. Your creative calling in this life cannot…

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10 Responses to “The Soul of the Matter: Create or fade away…”

  1. Fabulous post. Sometimes a break is healthy, but hiding from what makes us tick rarely is. Good luck getting back to what keeps you rolling in the fullness of what makes you YOU.

    • I’m rolling this morning, Myndi, though the fullness of what makes me me is often me writing in the middle of the night while the rest of the world gets the sleep I can’t ;o)

  2. You’ve hit on a topic that a lot of creatives struggle with. Finding that balance so that we can live a full, satisfying life, as well as create and be our best selves, without burning out, can be tricky.

    • It’s such a different reality than other “business” struggles. You can’t always work harder, and expect better results. You can’t even really take a break, because the creative stuff is always there, pushing toward the surface no matter how hard you push back.

      I think the key for me has been learning to take mini-breaks as often as I can, amidst the work, and pushing back in tiny ways that show me I am not being deluged, that it’s just work that I CAN handle.

      We’re forever out of control when we create. That’s the nature of the beast, and why so many chose not to follow those quieter gifts (though why my creativity seems to be screaming all the time, when others’ seem to whisper, I’ll never know).

      So the key is to be out of control with a plan???

  3. Deborah Blake says:

    You can do it!

    I am slowly getting back to the fiction writing after finishing another nonfiction book (which is a whole different kind of creativity). But after a year in which I struggled to come up with *any* new ideas, I got three in a brief period of brainstorming with myself, so that alone makes me happy.

    Now I just have to pick one and write it…

    • Love to hear that you’re brainstorming, Deborah!

      Maybe don’t pick just one for now? Start all three, see where they lead you, and let what moves you most take the lead?

      Your creativity is flowing. Don’t stifle that ;o)

  4. Skye says:

    I definitely know about falling into the shadows for far too long and letting my creativity get lost. I did finally write for the first time in years last year — my first novel. Now I have to revise it, but it will have to wait until I move first. I’ve put it off for several months, so I’ll be having to reach out to find my creativity again.

    I’m glad you are back and rolling along. I look forward to seeing what you do next!

    • It will be there sky, whenever you’re ready.

      Try not to put everything off until after the move. Even if you can only journal for now. Even if it’s just a few sentences each night or morning or noonday, to capture a flicker of your voice, your soul, write something everything.

      You’ll be glad you did, once you have the chance to put more of yourself into your novel again.

  5. A wonderful post Anna. Oh how I relate to this. I’ve had so many different things that have crushed my creativity. Yet, I yearn to create, but lack the energy to do it. Baby steps. That’s what I focus on. As you said, just writing a couple of pages helps to put you in a better place. :)

    • I’ve been there, Karen. I’ve been so drained, I thought the creativity would never find me again. That’s when I began getting out of my house, with a notebook, sometimes for just a few minutes at a time. For coffee or to go to the library or even just around the corner to grab a soda or something.

      I’d watch people and see what little of the world I could, and it would always inspire me and a few words. And then a few more. Until one day, the characters that drive me began speaking and creating themselves again…

      You’ll find your way back. Promise!

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