Diving into the Darkness

As a creative, I look for windows into the human psyche wherever I can find them. I listen to conversations in the booth behind me at my local coffee shop (I know. Bad). I watch interesting documentaries on Netflix, pay attention to the lyrics in folk songs, read essays and poems, and watch indie films.

Almost more than anything else, I listen to podcasts.

Podcasts have an advantage over other forms of media because I can consume them while I’m running or washing dishes. I’ve written before about how well-chosen episodes stay with me for days, even weeks, after I’ve listened to them. They send my mind down new paths and bring fresh insight into old problems. All of this helps me craft better stories.

Recently, though, I’ve had to call it quits on one of my favorite genres–true crime.

The problem is I get into the habit of binge listening to one horrific incident after another. I’m riveted by them, but my spirit sinks with each gory detail. I notice I don’t feel like going for my afternoon run or talking to my kids when I’m on a listening jag. Worse, I dream about crime and often waking up groggy and disoriented. Finally, I start obsessing about how God sees all the wickedness people commit against one other, and how he could stop it but often doesn’t. At least not in this life.

I’m left lethargic and on edge.

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So, yesterday, I went to my playlist and deleted my crime shows. I sort-of hated to do it because, as I’ve (also) mentioned before, I’m waiting to hear back about the status of my novel, and listening keeps my mind off things, at least for 30 minutes at a time. No amount of distraction is worth the emotional darkness, though. I’m simply going to have to find another way to survive, and, hopefully, to stay productive and present.

How about you? What do you do to pass the time when you’re in a season of waiting? How much darkness is too much?

Art in the Second Half of Life

Some of the pros of pursuing a creative field in my forties are that

  • I feel calmer, braver, and less neurotic than I did when I was younger.
  • I’ve mostly raised my kids, so I don’t have Mom Guilt when I take time away from them to get better at my craft.
  • I’m more disciplined with my time because, honestly, there are fewer things in my life that feel like interesting distractions (with the possible exception of podcasts on unsolved murders).

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But there are cons, too.

  • I feel rushed, like I’m always on the verge of running out of time. It’s hard not to compare myself to twenty or thirty-somethings who are doing all the things I’m doing, but sooner, so the odds of success seem ever in their favor.
  • I get mentally exhausted sooner than I did in my twenties, and I wonder if my ideas are “safer” because of this mellow(er) decade.
  • I’m physically tired.

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In order to keep going, I have to remind myself that

  • I was meant to find this path at this time (I believe God directs our lives more than we realize).
  • My ideas are probably less wild but truer than if I’d written them down earlier. This is because I’ve lived more. I’ve sat in the shadows with people. I’ve traveled the world. This has to count for something.
  • My life is going to pass whether I pursue writing or not. Since there’s no slowing down the passage of time, I might as well spend some of it doing what I love.

Are you thinking of creating art in the second half of your life? If you need a little encouragement, check out these women who got published after the age of 40. 

The Power of 15

You know what Americans say when you ask how they are?

(If you said fine, you’re so ten years ago).

The new answer is busy.

I say it, too, because it’s true. I’m busy. You’re busy. All God’s (American) children are busy.

The question I’ve been asking for a long time: How do I maintain the mental margin needed to foster creativity when there’s something to do every minute of the day?

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Photo by Úrsula Madariaga on Pexels.com

Then I noticed something.

Most days, I find myself with the odd chunk of time, a snippet of dead space where I could be getting something done, but I just don’t want to. Lately, instead of feeling guilty that I’m not being ultra-productive, I’ve been staring off into space, if only for 10-15 minutes. I don’t look at my phone or check email. I don’t try to fit in a little reading. I sure as heck don’t try to work on my book.

I just daydream.

It’s sort-of saving my life. I find I have more peace and clarity on days when I give myself this kind of mini-break. I can tap into my creative side more easily when it’s time to write or edit. Often, my ideas are queued up, just waiting for me to implement them.

In short, letting my brain wander for 10-15 minutes has paid big creative dividends, so I’m not planning on ditching this “wasted” time any time soon.

What about you? Do you have a few minutes you can afford to “squander” by letting yourself do nothing but think?

I hope you do.