Creativity Q&A: Three Ancient Insights for Creative Constancy

Hi Katherine,

How can I stay connected to the outer part of the vortex, when I’m in the inner part of despair and isolation?

(Diane L., Events Producer)

Dear Diane,

Thanks very much for this question. If I understand correctly, you are asking how to continue actively creating, even though you may be feeling isolated or despairing along the way.

This is such an important point in the process, and often feels more like the end of the road than a turning point. But the first crucial point is that these periods of despair are part of the creative process too, and even though you may feel anything but… you are still engaged. The journey is still unfolding.

Turning Point or Dead End

Feeling our emotions without getting lost in them is one of creativity’s biggest challenges. Gifted artists throughout history, from Van Gogh to Cobain, have given evidence to this. And Cobain summaries the loneliness of creative authenticity so clearly:

“I’d rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I am not.”

Because so many artists (in any walk of life) never learn to manage the emotional waters of creativity, we have come to associate the word ‘artist’ with terms like ‘starving’ and ‘crazy’. It’s a tragedy really, because this is just part of the journey to be moved through, like any other.

The Shore of Possibility

In the Wheel of Creativity, despair occurs in Station 5, Isolation. At this point in the creative process, you have left the shore of what you knew (the status quo and the way things have always been), but the new shore of possibility is not yet in view. It’s easy to feel lost here, but you are not lost. It’s common for the crew of voices in your head to mutiny; they need you to take the lead.

The task of Station 5 is to stay vigilant. It’s time to learn to navigate. Even in the wee hours you must keep vigil for the land you seek. Without instruments or maps or previous experience in this unknown place, you must learn to navigate from within, like ancient navigators who made their way around the world with their senses. How did they do it? How can you apply their wisdom today?

Three ancient insights for creative constancy:

  1. Stay on course. This is not a time for abandoning ship. You have not come this far to give up. Eliminating that as an option redirects your energies from ambivalence to attention. Recommit to your course for another, reasonable period of time.
  2. Stay calm. Self-doubt looms large in this station, as you question your judgment and vision. We all have many voices inside us, which I call the crew, and they need talking to. Some may need soothing while others need a good swift kick in the behind. Recalibrate your strategy and take charge of your inner voices.
  3. Stay focused. At times of discouragement, it’s easy to get distracted.  Like the ancient mariners’ mythical sirens, attractive alternatives suddenly come out of nowhere. Reconnect with your inner vision. Reevaluate and reassign your resources (time, money, energy) and how to best use them.

Each stage of the creative process has an emotional component to it. Some stages and some emotions are easier than others. But, whether the challenge is great or small, you have a choice over how you respond. In fact, it is natural at the outside of the Wheel to feel that sensation of spinning and overwhelm; it is returning to the center that calms you, whatever your experience is today. And the stillness is always there, waiting for you in the center, at the axis of the Wheel.

Let me know if this helps, Diane. I’m happy to follow up with you if you saw a different angle. Let me know!

So stay vigilant and…



P.S. Post your questions on the Wheel of Creativity Facebook page, and I’ll answer one here every Friday.