The Creative Dilemma

“2 am’s were made for poets. Lovers/writers. Visionaries. Photographers. Painters. Over thinkers. Silent seekers. These are my favourite hours.”

I love the wee hours of the morning, but I have a predilection for the evening. Dusk. Twilight. I’m an unapologetic night owl. That’s when I come alive, find my stride, unfurl. Words pour out of me. The foggy morning struggle lifts and the landscape is one of peace and clarity. I’m not distracted by mundane requests or daily obligations. I close the door to my sanctuary and invoke the Muse.

A sweet spiral of frankincense ascends from my humidifier. The hum of traffic slows as the ocean surges behind me. I hear the sea, as a child holds a conch. I open the sliding glass door, invite the saline breeze – the smell, the sound … It comforts me.

I look up from my mummified position on the lounge, notebook balanced on lap, and survey the domestic chaos: a Feng Shui purgatory. Dishes in the sink, an unmade bed, stray tissues, plastic takeaway containers clumsily stacked — my leaning tower of Pisa.

Normally, I’d attend to the task of tidying my environment before writing. Clear the space, establish order; a harmonious room in which to create. But not now. Not tonight.

In the past, I stacked the dishwasher, hung clothes, vacuumed tired carpet, wiped sticky fingerprints from glass tables … and then. Wrote. Nothing.

I was too tired.

Writing always came last.

I told myself I couldn’t write in a place that a resembled a bomb site. So, my pristine environment remained devoid of words, syntax, verse. I promised myself I’d write in the morning … A morning that never came.

This evening, I drew a symbolic red cross through my mental ‘To Do’ list. I made a commitment to write. And only write. My tidy sphere is an interesting metaphor: A symbol of procrastination and the uncomfortable truth that my creativity has always come last.

I can trace such origins to well-meaning platitudes: “It’s a hobby — not a serious career, you’ll never make any money, get a real job, there are too many other talented writers, you’re too young, old, inexperienced … fill in the blank.”

The rhetoric echoes through waves of time.

This is beautifully captured by Clarissa Pinkola Estés: “I’ve seen women insist on cleaning everything in the house before they could sit down to write … and you know it’s a funny thing about housecleaning … it never comes to an end. Perfect way to stop a woman. A woman must be careful to not allow over-responsibility (or over-respectability) to steal her necessary creative rests, riffs, and raptures. She simply must put her foot down and say no to half of what she believes she ‘should’ be doing. Art is not meant to be created in stolen moments only.”

On some level, I’ve absorbed these sentiments. Writing — or any creative endeavour — has sauntered across the finish line, collecting the wooden spoon. I’ve not made it a priority: “I’ll write when I’ve moved, renovated, lost 10 pounds, travelled, finished my course, blah, fucking blah”. Now I see it. Or perhaps now I choose to see it: My complicity, fear, excuses.

Responsibility knocks on the door, inviting me to examine beliefs and behaviours; to scrutinise my ‘ability to respond’. There is innate freedom in knowing that, in any given moment, we have the power to choose how to respond … to a person, situation or circumstance.

The alchemy of transmuting passivity into agency.

© D. E. Monnier, Excerpt from ‘My Year Abroad & Other Salacious Tales’, 2018.

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