Creatively Stifled? Have an Affair
Sometimes attempting to reach a goal feels like passing through a tunnel.
A tunnel that begins to tighten its grip around you the closer you get to the exit.
Now, before we bring in the tiny violins, let me say this: I do not mean that as a complaint… necessarily.
I am on a quest to become a writer, and I understand (and accept) there will be duress. So I find that the nearer I get to those final constraints of reaching the status of an income-earning writer, the more muck it seems there is to push through.
Doubts, distractions, defeats…they leak onto the concrete and smile skyward with each step I take in advance.
In these throes of pressure, I recently thought of Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic and got to thinking of a notion she mentions about affairs…
Every day I pine for the home that writing and I wish to build together.
For now, though, it is as though we are having an illicit affair. I carve out the time when the rest of the world still sleeps, I make excuses as to why I must go home early. I enter the room and we lock eyes, sighing out the day’s strain.
In my secret heart, I seek out the next moment for a writing rendezvous…
Fine. I brought it up, so let us ask the question:
What are the Requirements of An Affair?
And I’ll even answer it:
3. Brain chemicals that make us behave like drug-addicts
Given that, perhaps the notion of an affair strikes most as negative (and with good reason).
Most play out in a predictable fashion: A person is in a committed relationship—has a family, even—and they meet someone else. The affair begins.
Or might we call it an addiction?
For no matter how full and committed a life already is, the affair becomes a drug flooding the system.
Time is found to carry it out.
The most painful aftermath tends to occur when these addictions are carried out with another human, but this need not always be the case. No, the illicit lover can be alcohol, drugs, video games, exercise, etc.
Never underestimate a person’s capacity to find distraction.
In a more-acceptable affair, a person is single, meets someone, and suddenly an entire world forms in a space that had previously been considered full.
What mystery it is, this creation of worlds!
It is that awe-filled feeling that I call upon when the tunnel of life constricts and I feel hopeless toward finding time to write.
Indeed, having an affair should be a requirement for the creatively inclined.
It is a uniquely effective way to use perspective, altering our mental narrative in order to behave in accordance with our goals.
No, our relationship with creativity is not a tangible love.
The fruits of a creative affair manifest in other ways: A fulfilled life, desirably-gained finances, hours that never feel wasted…
Writing can’t kiss me, but he commits to a life with me.
(It’s more than I get from most.)
Desire, Passion, and…Chemicals?
Of the three necessary ingredients for an affair, the passion and desire are there.
What I fear these non-human liaisons cannot do, however, is provide so easily the third ingredient: brain chemicals that make us behave like heroin addicts.
In my experience, there is something (a look, a touch) that hits us viscerally in these romantic liaisons. It releases the adrenaline, dopamine, serotonin, etc. that lead to the addiction stage.
That “something” isn’t always so easy to trigger within our creative pursuits. Perhaps it is because human contact delivers unique biological feedback between the two involved.
But there is this other thing about being human:
We’re creatures of pattern.
You know how to ride a bike.
If I ask you to describe the process, you could more or less pull this off.
And you wouldn’t need the bike in your hands to know that you could perform the riding process—You would know exactly what to do.
We don’t need the chemicals of a love affair coursing through our body in order implement the associated behaviors.
Affairs and Bike-Riding
Just like riding a bike, I know what I would do if a man was making me crazy.
I would say:
Who cares if I need sleep, who cares if I’m supposed to meet so-and-so for coffee this week or if the pile of clothes on my floor is beginning to look like a small car. Right now, I will see that man.
Regarding writing as a love affair enables me to know that if I want to do something, I can make the time.
I’ve done it before for things much less important (facebook? organizing the pantry? that trip to the bar?).
Indeed, at the expense of healthy things, I have engaged in unhealthy, affair-fueled behavior.
With writing, I’m in a position to have a healthy relationship, a healthy affair.
But writing isn’t a human. It is not a beautiful man who will touch or kiss me back or call and text me throughout the day. It is a rather selfish lover, if we look in only from the outside.
And yet I know that writing is the most committed one in our relationship. He is not making any false promises.
As long as I show up, he will be there waiting.
Writing and I, we conspire together and try to find moments to slip away.
Maybe I’m a crazy person (undoubtedly), but it does feel like a relationship.
Perhaps this reads a little desperate.
I feel like I should be speaking aloud as I type in a sappy British voice à la Bridget Jones and suddenly Hugh Grant will knock on my door and say,
“Let me love you…IRL.”
But fuck Hugh.
Sure, he has the whole “physical touch” thing going on, but writing and I are in a committed relationship and I know writing will not solicit a $60 blowjob on the Sunset Strip.
We can trust creative affairs, and trust is priceless.
Affair-mongering to Stay Goal-Focused
When I wake up in the morning and want to reach for my phone—no way. My lover awaits.
I reach for my journal instead.
So too for my lover I then meditate and stretch. I want to be focused and fit, as dynamite as possible for our affair.
After I make my coffee and sit down at the desk, I know that these are the hours I’m working to keep a love alive.
Maybe you’ve never experienced a love affair—innocent or not. In that case, maybe take a look at yourself. Is something within you keeping you from opening up to a relationship of passion?
Perhaps that’s a topic for another post.
Most of us do know that feeling of falling head over heels and borderline obsession toward new prospects of love.
Do you feel like it would help you to adopt this attitude toward your career and creative goals? Do you already do something like this?
What do you do to stay motivated and persevere when life gets in the way your creative pursuits?
Let me know—leave a comment!