Why You Need to Embrace the Ups and Downs of Your Creative Process

From the creative cave of my music studio, where I am completing five new albums to help raise awareness of MAPS (the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary), I was reminded the other day of how the creative process is cyclical, with many ups and downs. As a yogi, I often reflect upon the wise words in […]

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From the creative cave of my music studio, where I am completing five new albums to help raise awareness of MAPS (the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary), I was reminded the other day of how the creative process is cyclical, with many ups and downs. As a yogi, I often reflect upon the wise words in the Bhagavad Gita, which says a yogi is one who acts without attachment to the fruits of his actions. I am blessed with regular reminders of this understanding, which is at the heart of my life’s work and purpose.

How easy it is for the mind to get caught up in “this is my project”, or “this work is who I am”, and believe we are what we do. Spiritual traditions worldwide remind us we are not the doers, as life-force moves through us. We are witness to the unfolding of that life-force. We humbly serve its arising with joy, trust and deep surrender.

The cyclical nature of creative projects is a common theme in my life as an artist. At first, the surge of energy that moves through to create is potent. I have no time to think about what is happening. I just act – like taking dictation. But should my mind kick in, I fall into doubt and get in the way of serving the creative flow.

Years ago, when I first started writing songs, I would go to my piano or pick up my guitar in a state of joy, with a sparkling idea, only to soon find my head spinning with dizziness. An interference pattern was short-circuiting the flow. Knowing it was temporary, and being very focused on the creative thread I was courting, I would lie down for a moment until it passed. Then I would sit right back up and keep writing and listening to the muse.

I have seen the cyclical nature of the creative process summed up in various ways online. When I first saw some version of it, I literally laughed out loud. You may have seen some version of it too. It goes something like this:

  1. This is amazing!
  2. This is tough.
  3. This is terrible.
  4. I am a loser.
  5. Maybe this is okay.
  6. This is amazing!

My husband and music manager Rishi knows my process so well now that we both have a good laugh when I am moving through the “this sucks” phase. I do my best to watch it move through and not give it any energy, as inevitably, some kind of breakthrough and delight is just around the corner. Nature shows us this daily as the darkest hour is just before daybreak.

Fear and doubt can creep in at certain stages of the creative process. They could even be a sign we are onto something good in our work. When something selfless and potent is getting ready to shine through, our ego may feel frightened and destabilized and seek to dissuade us through fear and doubt.

Everyone has the voices that say, “I can’t. I am too young. I am too old. I am not good looking enough. I am not healthy enough. I am not wealthy enough. I am not talented enough…” The list goes on and on and on! It does not stop! The “not enoughs” seem to be part of our human shadow. How we manage fear and doubt often makes the difference between those who are pursuing a life they love and those who are waiting on the sidelines.

Just as with any emotion, when we try to run from it, it follows us. When we sink into it and become identified with it, we lose ourselves in it. When we run from or sink into fear and doubt, they grow. What we resist persists. Instead, we can welcome fear and doubt. When we are present with the difficult stages of the creative process, the energy that feeds fear and doubt subsides.

The love and spark and deep passion that made us start on our creative path in the first place are the source to which we return again and again. We may feel afraid. That is okay. We may feel challenged and unsure how to make it through. That is okay. Beyond the doubts and the fears, stronger than the power of the obstacles, we learn to touch with confidence the reality that we are guided, loved and not alone. Though the dark may scare us, we know we are beings of infinite light.

In your creative process, may you always remember that fear and doubt are only passing clouds on the way to letting your soul light shine.

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