Sometimes, just as life is moving along beautifully, peacefully, The Worst Thing That Can Happen happens.
You know what I’m talking about: those events that happen to other people, that you never expected to come your way, especially not now, not while everything is so damn good.
If you know my writing, you might expect a flippant remark at this point.
But in true sass-meets-kindness style, I’m going with kind on this occasion. Sometimes sassy can sit tight.
We’re going to go gently. We’re going to broach emotion, study sadness.
I’ve been sitting on this post for a year and a half now, when a weird this-cannot-be-happening Life Thing happened and tore away from me a surprising relationship with a wonderful person. It was heartbreaking. Sudden. Frustrating. Shocking. It was, yeah, weird.
Above all, it was fucking unfair
It was also a time in my life when, in business, I was mid-joint-venture, desperate to sort myself out financially (you know, Once And For All), and not a little swamped with work owed to clients.
Then, of course, there was all of the writing and creating I had to do, as a part of what my audience expected of me. As part of what I expected of me.
Hello, Overwhelm. I recognise you.
I needed to figure out a way to keep going professionally, while going through turbulent emotions. And whether I liked it or not, I had to stay creative.
I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to create from emptiness? Hard, isn’t it? Impossible, maybe? Perhaps that’s because emptiness is the opposite of inspiration.
This is not a substitute for therapy or a mechanism to cope. The suggestions I make here are based on the experiences of my own and those of friends, who had no choice but to keep creative in their business, even when they least felt like it.
Okay, so I’m going to contradict myself immediately and say, at first, don’t stay creative. There’s nothing that can’t wait a few days when your heart is shattered. You don’t have to tough it out. People understand that there are days when life is shite, pure and simple. For those first few hours, days, weeks, surrender, cry, stay in bed all day, mope, be a jibbering mess if you need to be. Because that’s human.
Though heartbreak may feel like numbness at first, I invite you to explore the emotion. To avoid sounding like a million other mentors in this life stuff, I won’t say ‘go deeper’, ‘feel into it’, but you get what I’m saying. After the shock, or even inside it, there are other feelings in you. Harness them.
You don’t even need to label them. Just write to process what’s inside your head. When your mind is all jumbled, journal to make sense of it. Or even just to express it. Or even just for something to do that’s not staring blankly at a wall.
There’s no formula for moving on. Except the tried and trusted gathering of your girlfriends. Conversations are creativity. Speaking in a stream of consciousness can be as self-expressive as it gets.
While your instinct may be to push away painful memories, I’ve witnessed how collecting beautiful memories has helped ease pain. Of course, probably not the first thing you should do when you’re heartbroken is head for the scissors and Sellotape. Yet I find sorting through stuff actually quite calming. And better to look sooner than accidentally coming across a photo just when you think you’ve dealt with the loss, only to have it slap you across the face anew.
Reactionary writing when I’m fired up about something is one of my favourites. When shock turns to disbelief turns to anger, it’s incredible what creativity (read: expletives!) can be born. Keeping your hand in (while not necessarily publishing your raw writings) can be crucial to staying creative through this time. Certainly, it can be more helpful than grinding to a complete halt and having to start up from nothing.
Doing something with my hands (that isn’t smoking or strangling someone) can be super therapeutic. And prettiness brings peace to us women too. Just ask my gorgeous author girl Tara. We’re wired to desire pleasure and make the world a more delightful place to be. Collect wild flowers, colour a mandala, paint a canvas, draw in an art journal, take photographs, read poetry, knit if knitting is your thing, mosaic, make a meal from scratch. (Even if you don’t feel like eating, the smells, colours and textures alone will nourish some part of you).
Doing something might even take your mind off your broken heart, if only for an instant or two.
When it comes to keeping creative through heartbreak, know that it won’t always be this way. If you just can’t get done what you need to do, avoid getting stuck on being ‘stuck’.
Go do something else and come back to it later. Try a different suggestion from the list above. Stop pushing. And rest, rest, rest.
Feel better, babe.
Do you have a creative job or business where sucky life stuff has interrupted your flow? How did you work through it? Share your ideas in the comments below. You may just help heal a heart.