In my former life, I associated creativity only with fame and money. If I wasn’t paid for writing, it didn’t count. If I thought of a creative idea, it was only worthwhile if I could make money at it. I couldn’t understand the concept of a hobby. Why waste time doing something if you couldn’t do it as a career?
Last night, I watched J.K. Rowling on the Daily Show (thanks to the magic of DVR). She said that it took years (five, actually) to write the first Harry Potter book. She was living on what the British call “Benefits” (i.e., welfare) to survive. She didn’t believe that this book would ever be published, but she was driven to write it. She had to write this story for herself.
Many years ago, I sat crying in the audience listening to a speaker, one of those positive thinking type gurus. I raised my hand and sobbed about how I have wanted fame so badly. And she was snappish when she asked me what my passion was. And ended by telling me that one has to find the passion first. Fame isn’t a goal, though you could fool me the way celebrity is created nowadays.
But she was spot on as far as I am concerned and that has haunted me.
I have been disabled since 2010. My disability is such that I am able to have a life, and thankfully, my disability won’t kill me, but my world is very small.
My illness is invisible, but the claws of this auto-immune disorder keep me dizzy and fatigued, imprisoned by my skewed nervous system. I have had to let go of everything I was doing, my job, my online work, my podcast, my writing, my ambitions.
For a year and a half, I tried stepping out into the world to associate creativity with money. Each time, I was thrown back against the wall, not only having a severe episode that left me limp and virtually bedridden. But I found that I hated doing every creative thing that I thought would make me money. And I totally lost my ability to write freely and creatively. In fact, over the last few years of my writing career, I despised any type of writing, especially the technical writing I did in my day job. All I wrote on the side was non-fiction, because that is all I thought was possible for me to write. And even that became unbearable no matter what the topic.
Once I truly surrendered to my illness, and did what I was advised (closing all my websites, turning down any opportunities to make money), a funny thing happened. Slowly, over the next year, I discovered all types of creativity within me.
- I developed a love of drawing that became a daily meditation for me and about which I feel deep love and passion.
- I started this blog, which has been a sheer joy to write.
- I wrote a book for my son’s 21st birthday that just flowed through me.
- I am now contemplating writing a science fiction novel, something I never dared dream of doing, and would barely allow such an ambitious thought to reach my consciousness.
Now, when presented with money-making opportunities or when my addict mind starts moving toward fame or success, I recoil as if from a hot flame.
By virtue of this illness, I can no longer be a workaholic, shutting out family and other life experiences. My illness creates healthy boundaries around how long I can work on anything before symptoms overcome me, at which point I may be unable to do anything at all for hours or days.
Unlike many in this program who are underearning and can do the work to change it, I live on disability, and because of what happens when I try to do any type of work, it has to be enough for me … and for today, it is.
To be continued…