Written by Nimue Brown
Something I see regularly online is creative people saying that they are struggling.
Loss of focus, lack of energy, absence of inspiration – and in face of this they are unable to do what they do. For some people this is the painful loss of what used to delight them. For others it’s the terrifying inability to do the things that keep a roof over their heads.
You can’t pour from an empty cup. I’ve been here many times and can speak to the issue with some confidence. We all need inspiration in our lives or we end up lost, stuck, and unhappy. Being inspired takes time and space. If you are drowning in exhaustion, overload, lack of rest, lack of resources, stress and pressure then you won’t have room for inspiration.
Much of this is systemic. Here in the UK the cost of living keeps rising while wages do not. Many are struggling to get by. Poverty is exhausting and the threat of it is highly stressful. Trying to make less go further takes a lot of creative energy. If that sounds familiar, then it’s a lot to ask of yourself that you also manage to be creative in other ways alongside this.
However, there are things we can do to help ourselves. Part of the wider social pressure involves this grinding sense that you are supposed to be working hard all the time. This is a notion that exists to crush people and is fundamentally untrue. Rest is essential to both mental and physical health. If all you do is slog away at things there’s never time to question what you’re doing or whether you could improve things. This is not an accident.
The answer to lost innovation and lack of motivation is rest and restorative things. Turn to whatever nourishes you and make as much time for it as you can. Even if that’s very little time, it is still worth the investment. Give yourself space to think and regroup. Ideas take time and space. That’s as true for meal planning as it is for poems.
We have to allow each other this time and support each other in taking the time we need. We have to undermine this culture of perpetual hustle that burns people out and leaves them unable to function. Life should not be about working ourselves to death. So, if you see someone struggling, don’t tell them to try harder and push more. It doesn’t work. Encourage them to take a day off, or do something that cheers them. If you can ease their load in some way, offer it. It’s also not much use standing at the sidelines telling someone to take it easy if they have no way of doing that. Give them a lift, cook them a meal, watch their kids for an hour… if you can.
Gentleness gets a lot done. It is an antidote to internalized capitalism, and all the anxiety and stress that causes. In gently supporting each other we can create better and more sustainable lives.
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