You may have suffered a staggering loss, or come home with a new family member. It may be recovering from an illness, or accident. Or as it was in my case, a cross- country move that involved downsizing, two massive road trips and a golden retriever with separation anxiety; but no matter the reason, life happens and sometimes we fall off the wagon, lose our game, the train runs off the track, or whatever euphemism you want to use to describe what it’s like to take an unplanned sabbatical and not create.
There’s a lot of recrimination and second guessing that goes into dealing with the emotions that arise after you have passed through the most intense period that’s taken you from your desk, easel, or studio. For me, writing 500 words that came out clear and cognizant used to be so simple, or at least straightforward, but now, it feels like I’m starting over. At this point I start playing head games and asked myself, do I still want to do this? Can I do this? Am I really a writer if I’ve been away from my writing for months? The answers are all a resounding yes, but I need to do something very essential. I need to forgive myself.
See, writing is a discipline that involves the writer, the reader and the muse. Setting up the time, honing the craft and channeling the energy to create, edit and polish involves a commitment and when one doesn’t show, the others can feel a bit—dumped. I don’t know about you, but when I feel that I’ve disappointed someone, even myself, one of the first emotions is shame which is often expressed as self-loathing where I play the mental tape that says “I’m a loser, I’m a failure, and how did I even think I could be a writer?” Not that any of that is helpful, it’s not. But it’s happens to a lot of us and I think rather than fight it we say, “Yup, okay. I was away for a while and I know you missed me. Hell, I missed me. I didn’t mean to leave for so long. Things got tough, but I’m back. The muse drinks the wine you poured, the reader eagerly reads what you’ve written and you forgive yourself for being gone.
After that it becomes easier to recommitment.
And if we do that day after day? I not only have faith you and I can be where we were months ago, but move even further in our practice because we can use the lessons learned during our time away and plumb into deeper depths that will enrich our work. It’s what creative people have done for ages to bring us incredible art, and we’re just part of a legacy that we’ll pass down when other artists tell our stories of how we walked away and returned.