My life is so full of creative projects. The richest, most challenging long term creative projects in my life are the making of livelihood and home. Prospering as an artist and entrepreneur, building a strong happy family -- these projects, like any major art projects, require creativity, imagination, skill, daring, daily care, discipline, persistence, and stamina, as well as continuing willingness to learn new things and push through the hard bits with optimism. Over the last year I have gone through a healing process that has required some periods of painfully honest self-examination. I have learned a lot by examining my creative process in smaller life projects -- seeing every creative act as a microcosm of my life, and as a laboratory for my observing my strengths and weaknesses. I discovered that my pattern is pretty consistent, whether I am creating an ATC or a new business: there is the initial thrilling burst of inspiration, a cascade of ideas and images that resolves into an inner picture of this ideal and perfect creation I am going to make. I am thrilled and can't wait to get started! Next I gather what I need. This phase can be exciting, but also sometimes discouraging as I discover limitations in access to materials, budget, etc., or find myself dealing with old messes that need to be cleared away before the new project can begin. Next is the really enjoyable phase of getting down to the early stages of work, maybe learning new skills by reading and experimenting, and enjoying the pleasure of being in the creative "zone" and watching the new creation begin to take shape. If I am lucky, this phase will bring synchronicities, magic, and surprises that reveal the workings of spirit and the unconscious. Its a yummy phase. Next is the dreaded "middle part." Difficult problems crop up, boring technicalities need attention. Perhaps long periods of dull labour are required, or fiddly details need doing. If it's a collaborative project, conflicts start to arise. At this point I often look at the emerging creation and think "Oh no! This is an ugly piece of #!%*#%!! What was I thinking? I can't do this!!!" New inspirations start stirring at the back of my brain, tempting me to drop everything and embark on some new more seductive and glamourous project. Often, in the past, this is the phase where I have given up and started something new. The problem with this course of action is that after a while, the unfinished projects, and their accompanying messes, start to build to critical mass. I think for many of us , this critical mass occurs sometime in our late thirties/early forties, and life calls to us, challenges us to find ways to creatively get through the difficult "middle part" of our art projects, our careers, our marriages, businesses, our child-rearing, house- building, weight-losing, or whatever other fabulous projects we have embarked on in life. I don't think it's just a matter of mildly punitive self-discipline, or of dutifully finishing things just for the sake of getting them done (although, for myself, a little added dose of self-discipline and persistence has been helpful.) I think the challenge is to find the juice in these apparently dry middle parts by drawing on the deeper levels of creativity and wisdom that we may not even know we have. We can try finding the beauty in repetition, gently urging ourselves away from perfectionism, and allowing our creations to emerge from our lives complete, whole, imperfect, and often looking very different from that enticing vision that got us started in the first place. I am slowly learning to nurture myself through the long middle parts, slowly learning to accept imperfections and occasional failures, slowly learning the courage it takes to fully inhabit each phase of the great creative project of life.
I'd love to hear how you deal with the tricky "middle part" - or which part is tricky for you, and what you've learned from your creative process about how to navigate life.