I read recently that there is a difference between change and transition. Change is something inevitable that happens to you and around you. It can be a surprise or it can be something you seek, but it’s the external impetus that stimulates internal shifts. Transition is a whole other beastie.
Some of you are already aware that I’m going through a divorce. I recently separated from my husband and moved out with my two adorable kitties. Change.
I have a book coming out in less than three weeks. Change.
I now have a thirty minute commute to work instead of ten, though I have my car back after two years. Change.
Those are a lot of big things. Some are positive. Some are at best mixed.
In periods of intense change, it can be really difficult for your mind to adjust. For the past two or three months, I feel like I’ve been running on a hamster wheel. Spinning through copy edits, tangoing with Craigslist, every day a welter of emotions that range from ecstatic joy to complete bewilderment to rage to grief to hope to relief to overwhelming sadness to terror.
That’s one of the hallmarks of transition.
I’ve found myself thinking at least once a week (often once a day or more) that I just have to get through this week. I just have to get through today. I just have to get through this month. Next month. This summer. This hour.
Transition, ultimately, is coping with change.
There are many ways to cope, and for creative people, change and periods of transition can have several different effects, all of which fall into the category of “normal.”
1. Creative constipation.
Sorry, I couldn’t help the alliteration there.
Sometimes when life is in upheaval and your mind is struggling to keep up with the influx of stress and various stimuli, your creative battery gets depleted. Things you normally do as an outlet may not come easily. Which is to say that they may feel like you’re chasing a dragon with a pair of pliers in an attempt to remove its molars.
This can be compounded if you do something creative professionally and have to contend with deadlines.
One way to cope could be trying something else to get your brain working in a creative fashion. If you’re a writer, draw or paint something, even if you think you suck at it. Build something. Hell, open up Paint and scribble. Bead. Knit. Crochet. Macramé. Weld something (probably take a class or so first).
2. Creative catharsis.
Sometimes you’re able to funnel stress through a creative lens like a sunbeam through a magnifying glass. Making your art can become a coping mechanism in and of itself, helping you work through feelings and emotions, problems and solutions.
Or you might have tried the above suggestion and found a new love of weaving or chain mail manufacturing. Sometimes just finding a focus in the midst of chaos can be enough to sustain you through a difficult time.
3. Creative chaos.
You want to write a D&D based novella. And paint a picture of railroad ties. And sculpt a life size Misha Collins. Maybe you want to take up dip candles. Or beeswax rolling. Or blacksmithing.
Yeah, that is a lot to juggle.
When there’s a lot going on in your life, sometimes the creative part of your brain can take a cue from the outside world and make you temporarily curious about ALL THE THINGS until you have a half dozen unfinished projects scattered around the house and Gorilla Glue stuck to the bottoms of your feet and you can’t remember what project you were even USING Gorilla Glue for.
Take a deep breath. Make sure you’re not under water first.
4. Creative cutoff.
It can help sometimes to do something uncreative, a completionist task that allows your brain to see one thing through from beginning to end that will have an objective sense of beginning and end. This could mean washing the car or other mundane jobs that might seem tiny, but sometimes it helps just to know you can finish things. That life keeps going even when each text message makes you cringe and you want nothing more than to bury yourself in your comforter and eat gelato all day.
There’s no one way to transition when change shifts the fault lines of your life. Most people don’t even have one set thing that happens. You might bounce back and forth from catharsis to constipation to cutoff to chaos — that’s just part of your mind coping.
The only real catalyst to transition is time and a healthy sense of cognizant engagement with whatever is going on in your life. Time plus sticking your head in the sand does little but prolong the process. Time plus engagement means you can rejoice in the small victories each day while recognizing that there will be setbacks. The important thing is to allow yourself to hear your own needs and listen as much as you can. You won’t always have the ability to take a week off and hide in the woods. But you can take a few hours and go to a park to sit and recharge.
And if that fails, maybe throwing pots can help — on a wheel or at a wall.
Just try to make sure there aren’t any people between you and the wall. 😉