The shadowlands: How to get out of creative despair

The shadowlands

When you’re involved in creative work there’s always a point where you enter a murky zone. You no longer see clearly. Is what you’re putting out good? Or is it crap? Can it be rescued in revision, or are you simply lost?
The same in life. You’re working hard at your day job. You’re engaging your creative practice daily. However, whenever you can. You’re even submitting. But nothing’s working. The joy you had approaching your work every day has seeped into the aquifer and you’re left with nothing  but distress. 

What the hell are you doing with your life, you think. You’re efforting and nothing is cracking open. It’s become a slog.

You’re in the shadowlands.
Nothing is black and white. The contrast between what is good and bad has so blurred it’s all puke grey to you now, you’ve become so dispirited.

Here’s how to get out of the shadowlands
Acknowledge  . . . and . . . Ask.
Acknowledge where you are in as frank of terms you can muster.
“I’m stuck.”
“I’m so damn lost Bear Grylls couldn’t lead me back.”
“I’m in agony. I don’t know what to do next.”
“I’m depressed, it’s futile, nothing I do matters.”

You want to define the truth of your situation so that you can imagine its opposite.
Travis Thomas of defines this as Yes and . . . . This concept comes from his background in improv theater. 

For Travis, the Yes is acceptance. It’s a blunt, un-sugarcoated statement about where you find yourself. 

The and . . . is where all your creativity comes to bear.  And . . . is the space you allow for possibility. It’s where you play boldly with the universe and start moving in a direction.

Yes, my heart was burned, and . . . I’m going to cocoon for awhile.
Yes, my heart was burned, and . . . I’m going to sign up for that class I’ve always wanted to take. Why the hell not? My evenings are free now.
Yes, my heart was burned, and . . . I’m going to go to an old folks home and ask them how they handled the biggest heartaches of their life.
Yes, my heart was burned, and . . . I’m going to mate like bonobos. Hello, online dating.
Yes, my heart was burned, and . . . I’m going to start that soul project I never got around to.
Yes, my heart was burned, and . . .

Once you’ve defined your situation clearly, ask big. If you can’t muster that, ask small. Asking is the wormhole to where you want to go. All you need ask is to be shown the way.
Think of what a wormhole is: A wormhole is a theoretical hidden doorway between two points in space-time. It’s a shortcut. What may in reality seem immense in distance can be traversed quickly via a wormhole.
It took me decades to learn: Asking is the best way out of any mess. Asking opens the wormhole to where you want to be.
When I speak of asking I mean asking from within yourself. Though you can ask others, you are most concerned with asking the question in the quietude of your own self.

Who are you asking? The Infinite. That part of you in connection with greater resources than you are currently accessing.
I have a preference for two kinds of asking. Written and Spoken.
Writing out your question and then sliding into possible answers is a freeing exercise.
Almost equally as powerful is asking aloud. In the privacy of your car, in a shower, on a walk . . . you know the places! . . . wherever you feel utterly alone and safe.
I’ve pleaded in the barest of whispers and I’ve demanded in pissed-off snarls of urgency. I’ve shouted and cursed. I’ve spoken rationally and calmly, as though I were an accountant looking into a not-quite-balancing ledger.
Be yourself, find that taproot into what you really feel and ask. Only earnest, honest asking does it. (When you’re in need . . . .)
(Delightfully you’ll find asking when it doesn’t matter one bit to you whether it happens or not yields surprising results. It’s why the happy bounce from one wondrous moment to another.)
The first thing asking does is refocus you on what you want. When you’re in the shadowlands it’s often because you’re mired in the confusion — and not looking up for guidance.
Asking is salvation.

When you ask from your heart-soul for an answer, what is the next most important thing to do?
Listening is active. You’re attentive. You consider answers that are seemingly being suggested to you.
Listening is re-asking. If you think you are hearing an answer but aren’t sure . . . ask for clarification! Ask again!
Ask, Is this idea where I should start? Ask for a clear signal.

The shadowlands make you more capable if you embrace where you’re at.
The shadowlands can be a catalyst to your best work, to your best self.

I’ve taken suck situations and through asking urgently and clearly they’ve been transformed. Through asking you convert a negative that has a stranglehold on you into a forceful good — spiritualizing a thing will do that for you.
I’m better for the crap storm I’ve gone through. I’m more resilient. I’m more loving. I’m more accepting. I’m more understanding. I’m less in a hurry. I’m less agitated. I’m more about less now. In an essentialist kind of way. Seeking what is essential for my life and discarding what is trivial.
I value my time in the shadowlands so much that when things go awry a little tinge of excitement comes. I know from hard experience that whatever is weighing me down will be the catapult into better. If I can learn its lesson.

There’s a divine wind blowing, always. Our job is to open up — to let it blow through us.

For you 

Evan Griffith

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