One of the more useful lessons I’ve learned in my life is that we often have habits about how we deal with things, based on a set of information that may not be applicable anymore.
This is why I have to do revisions. I have to re-vision something—look at it again—in order to discover whether or not the method I’m using still applies. Life is about change, and sometimes things change just enough, so that what you have always done is no longer a solution to the new situations and conditions that you are now experiencing.
I might be squishing around in the mud of a prime example, right now.
I didn’t think anyone or anything could ever steal my muse. I even have mantras and mottos based on this well-tested truth. I am “used by the muse” I say. Or “I don’t suffer from writers block, it suffers from me.” Yet, somehow I have been unable to write creatively—meaning novel writing—for a year, now.
Unheard of. Disturbing. Unacceptable. It’s quite analogous to losing the use of one arm for me.
The only clue to this burgeoning mystery, is that it coincided with the previous relationship that ended badly, (to be guilty of under-statement). I spent 9 months in a situation that tested my resistance to stress in the most unimaginable ways. Being an HSP, my brain architecture is predicated on Sensory Processing Sensitivity, and that means that I am hyper-aware of stimuli. In my environment and in my head. I see, hear, feel, taste and smell everything. It’s easy to become overwhelmed when you’re this way, and I have to say that situation was fraught with every type of challenge in every type of manifestation. I am a little amazed, frankly, that I didn’t lose my mind completely. So why wouldn’t I carry the residual effects of an experience like that? Though I often put too much credence into my own coping skills, it would be remiss of me not to recognize that I—even I—can come eye to eye with the beast of my undoing.
One result of that domestic milieu was the loss of my own individuality. I became only the sycophant for my partner’s needs and dramas, and lost touch with the importance of my own identity, my own desires and sustenance, emotionally, psychologically and physically. And this resulted in having the creative juice sucked out of me, for the duration of that relationship. I can only surmise that the effects have been more lasting than I anticipated they ever could be. And I was a willing subjugate to some degree, simply because I walked into that house of horrors under my own volition.
Why? I suspect it was because I was fearful. Fearful of being alone, fearful or growing old without a partner, fearful that I was such an oddball that should I find someone who wanted to share a life with me, I ought to dash inside before they changed their mind and closed the door in my face. What sort of absurd insecurity was that?
Nietzche said, “The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.”
So I drew a line in the sand, and when that line was crossed, I had enough self-respect left to open that door and walk away. I soothed and reassured myself by the idea that once I was free of this creativity-killing nemesis, I would again regain my individual identity, land on the path of my usual prolific literary self, and crank out another three books in no time at all. But in the year hence, that hasn’t happened, and now I must seriously investigate the reasons for this.
I know my writer’s block is not the usual variety. I have been writing voluminously for 25 years, with no indication of it ceasing without a brain injury or getting hit by a bus. Or getting hit by a bus which results in brain injury. So, there must be some ditch in my psyche that I must figure out a way to get over or around. Perhaps I should look into that ditch and see what’s there, but Nietzsche also warned us that if you stare into the abyss it also stares back into you. Depending on which translation you use, that quote from Beyond Good and Evil, in context, is “He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.”(trans., Helen Zimmern).
To me, this means that close proximity to a monster, (or monstrous behavior) might mean taking a piece of that monster with you when the struggle is over. I’m not being facetious when I say that I fought with several monsters at once in that last battle. And I suppose I ran the risk of becoming exposed to the contagion of their damage, simply by virtue of sharing space and energy with them. I would like to think the armor of my ethics and the cloak of my goodness was not tainted by this viral venom—that I had, at some point, developed the antibodies to deal with any infections arising from close quarters with the duly infected.
But who knows? Perhaps I overestimated myself. Perhaps the toxins got inside me and are now feasting on the cells of creativity that used to swirl around blithely unfettered for so long. Are they swirling anymore? Or are they coagulated into clumps of diseased apathy?
What is this subjective infection, and how do I eradicate it from my afflicted creative cells?
All I can do is what I have always done. Read. About creativity, and stress and individuality, and commentary from the masters who so eloquently inform our existence. Write. About all of the above. Keep priming the pump, talking to friends and others about it, and just continuing to trudge forward. Even if it is only an essay about not being able to write. The act of putting my fingers to the keys might remind some synaptic connection to start firing again.
Again, Nietzsche said, “What does not kill me makes me stronger.” Unless it instead snaps my spine. Then it makes me a paraplegic.