Have you ever heard about the frogs placed in a pot of water? If the temperature rises slowly enough, it’s said they don’t noticed they’re being boiled into an early froggy grave. It’s not a pretty experiment. Apparently the 19th century German researchers who did this - they were on a quest to locate the soul - didn’t think much of our amphibious friends' ability to feel pain.
And it’s not a particularly flattering metaphor either. It has been applied to humans who don’t take action in the face of all sorts of worsening circumstances from the Cold War to climate change to civil rights abuses.
I have no desire to equate myself with our friends from the swamp, so let’s prettify and domesticate the image, shall we?
If you slowly drain the creative waters out of a bathtub and just keep turning up the heat in the steamy room, it seems that a writer won’t notice she’s no longer bathing in inspiration.
When I began #365StrongStories, I made a declaration: I would walk my talk and demonstrate that it’s possible to consistently turn little moments of life and brief flashes of inspiration into stories. Ruthlessly, I named the project, pointed to the calendar, and embarked upon my mission.
I certainly do not have the temperament to be a scientist, but I realize I would have been better served to call this an “experiment” and talking about my "hypothesis" instead. That way, skipping a day or two of writing and publishing wouldn't have felt like a failure. A day of silence would have been a data point on the living graph that tracks the ebb and flow of creative energy, time to devote to the page, and the patience it takes to select just the right font and image.
When the creative waters dry up
I didn’t plan to take a long weekend away from my stories. We weren’t occupied by a special occasion or some family trauma. The creative tub had simply run dry. Ordinarily, I would have put off sleep or couch time with my husband to pull something together for the blog. Over the last few days, however, I just poured a glass of wine and said “let’s watch one more Outlander. ”
I couldn't even muster the energy to feel guilty or fret over the promises I had made to my audience.
Three days away from writing and generally refusing to show up gave me the space to notice how emptied out I am. I’ve let my most vital resources - my creativity and my inspiration - dry up in the name of some personal mission that was conceived with all too little self-compassion.
What happens after "failure"?
The stories will continue to flow when there’s enough in my reserves to share.
At this point, I am using what creative juices I have left to look at “365” in a new way. I promised a year of stories. Well, who said they all have to appear in 2016?
Today is the 137th day of the year and I believe this is the 132nd story I have written or curated since January 1. That realization alone and seeing how much I have created and held? That begins to fill the cisterns immediately.
This experience is teaching me to become a student of compassionate creative limits. Let’s learn from one another! Please let me know how you manage to keep the tub of inspiration filled and how you might have let your resources run dry.