This quote turned up on Julia Cameron’s Facebook feed the other day, and it’s really appropriate for me because I’ve been thinking about the need to remember and acknowledge our creative losses in order to move on from them.
One of the most powerful sessions at Blissdom this year was the one led by Bianca Olthoff, which was about the elements of our story and in which she asked us to each pick five high points and five low points from our lives to explore as a way of getting deeper with our writing.
A couple of people shared their low points, and they were really low, seriously bad things. Death, abuse, hard things to recover from.
The worst thing I could come up with that has happened to me was that I wrote a book that was really disappointing.
I cried a lot that day, in part from the exhaustion and overwhelm of such a huge conference, in part for those women who shared their stories, in part for me.
I cried because it seemed so petty and small that all I had to mourn was a book that could have been a lot better than it was. (Really, that’s not all I have, but it was the easiest to sum up in a moment and write on a timeline.)
And I cried because it needed to be mourned.
At the time, I just moved away from it as quickly as possible. I was embarrassed by it and didn’t try very hard to promote it (and goodness knows no one at the publisher did either). Which was a disservice to the hard work I did putting the book together. It’s actually a great book if you can get past the bad photography.
Feeling the Loss
We all need to take time to acknowledge and mourn our creative losses and disappointments. Maybe your book got rejected by your dream publisher, or your novel is still in a drawer or on a hard drive somewhere, being ignored and neglected.
Maybe you didn’t get that great job or your article idea got passed up or the craft show didn’t accept you or your Etsy shop flopped. Maybe the painting you’ve been working on didn’t turn out, or you just can’t figure out how to turn what’s in your head into the thing you think it should be.
Or maybe you harbor a dream to do more creative work that has so far gone unfulfilled. That’s its own kind of loss.
It’s important to name that loss, to feel it and acknowledge it, and then to move on from it. What’s the next step you can do to produce a better result next time? Do something today that can help you move on and move forward.
I was going through old files the other night and I found my edits from that book. It’s a big, thick file, full of effort and hope and disappointment. I kind of wanted to keep it, but I also kind of wanted to destroy it.
That second impulse won. Fire is cathartic and cleansing in its way. It feels like a release to burn things. And it helped me to release some of the bad feelings around that work.
I am not that book. And now I’ve made a book that’s better, and the next one will be even better than that.
It’s all about making progress, learning and growing. Don’t let those disappointments hold you back.
What creative loss do you have that needs mourning? Release it here.