Click here to Read Part One, Part Two, and Part Three of this series. Some recent events in my life bring me back to Glass House Life: Survival Guide for Creative People. When life happens, you learn things, and I process those lessons best when I write them down.
This is typical for creatives. One major source of stress for me is realizing how much non-creatives don’t get it. You need to find a fellow writer to talk to, someone who relates to your problems with writing, or beta readers, or query letters. Otherwise, it feels like you’re screaming into a hole, or walking an endless high wire with no safety net. Positively exhausting.
So while I work on my stories, I also want to work on the problem of glass house life. This kind of challenge begs for a survival guide, but I’ve yet to find one that comprehensively addresses my writing/creative-specific challenges. Freud had ‘Confessions in Stone.’ Lynn Johnston’s confessions about her parental insecurities became a comic strip called ‘For Better or Worse.’ When I’m creative, I’m not just creating art. I’m also creating me.
This isn’t a simple process. Being a creative forces you to uncover, unpack, confront, and resolve so many broken parts of yourself. It can manifest itself in friendly advice, or it can show up as painful, agonizing failure. Beautiful souls, like beautiful gardens, take time to cultivate. Here is one important idea that I’m adding to this Glass House Life: Survival Guide for Creative People.
Clean Out Your Emotional Garage
Everything I experienced over the past year brought out a lot of emotional baggage out of my past. I think it’s fair to say where some people keep their emotional ‘garages’ in order, mine is cluttered with piles of garbage. Some of that garbage I’ve had to live with, or try to ignore, while functioning as an adult. Every once in a while a pile will block my path or collapse; then everyone gets a look at the stinky, disheveled hoard of emotional muck I’ve been trying to quietly clean up.
No one is perfect, of course. Each of us are human beings who deserve dignity and understanding. I sometimes have a right to assert myself even though I inconvenience others, and so do you. But that isn’t the end of the story!
No the rest of the story is understanding: how much of this is their part to take, how much of it is mine? When you don’t get taught how to exercise your own agency as a mature adult, you spend a lot of time doing the ‘wrong things’ according to those who had the correct behavior modeling. Some people won’t understand, others will.
It’s Not Our Neighbors’ Responsibility to Clean Out Our Garage
Of those who do understand, we need to remember this is our garage to clean. Not theirs. Should someone have helped us keep our garage from becoming a nightmare of chaos? Sure, but that doesn’t mean those who care for us now have signed up to clean up our garage for us.
No, think of those people as kind neighbors who see our mess, aren’t judging, and are trying to offer helpful hints. It’s not their garage to clean, but they can understand what a pain a messy garage is. Ever offer to help a neighbor take care of a big job, only to find out the neighbor didn’t understand how big the job was, and now you’re like “sheesh, I didn’t sign up for this!”
Yeah, sometimes that neighbor is us. We can ask for more than others are able to give, and often without realizing it. We can literally burn out our own supporters if we’re not careful. As we’re creating art, and we want to do it for a living, we have to have clear lines between the art and us. Recognize when those lines are being crossed, create our own mechanisms. Maintain healthy boundaries, and don’t ask of them more than is appropriate. Remember: it’s our garage to clean.
One of the biggest lessons learned from being creative is how addicted you can become to comfort. You don’t mean to, of course, but that Western Civilization fallacy of ‘we must be comfortable to be happy’ is baked into our cultural DNA. It takes time to realize, understand, and unpack this reality and usually creative people are doing this in real-time. Our psyches rarely give us the courtesy of the advance notice of a freak-out.
Our psyches rarely give us the courtesy of the advance notice of a freak-out.
I admit it: my freak-outs over the past months have made me look like less of a person. I’m not proud of that fact; I’m not as far along as I thought I was. Writing this stuff down helps me embrace the discomfort, getting all these thoughts out of my head and down on paper is how I unclutter my emotional ‘garage.’
One thing to remember about this discomfort? Learning to be okay with discomfort is a skill unto itself. It’s a reminder from the universe: Not everything is about you. It’s a clue that you should prioritize listening over action, awareness over authority. Embracing discomfort can also be an opportunity to recognize how far you’ve come and also where you need to go next.
How do you do that? There are some good resources out there – look through the articles I just linked and see if some of those ideas resonate with you and your personal situation. I’d give you more specific advice, but frankly speaking: I’ve got my own garage to clean. 🙂
Wrapping It Together
The goal of all of this information is simple: I want to give you (and me) a survival guide for creative people. This glass house life we’ve decided we want is both beautiful and challenging; sometimes, all we want to know is that we’re not alone, that someone relates to us. I hope this edition of Glass House Life: Survival Guide for Creative People has been helpful for you – please feel welcomed to reach out and tell me via Twitter or Reddit.
Other Helpful Articles
- Patton Oswalt’s Masterclass on Positivity and Creativity
- He Suffered for All of Us – Creative Meltdown
- Bill Nighy’s Creative Advice – ‘There’s No Process’
- Listening to Criticism is Hard – Do It Anyway