At the beginning of this year I decided that I would work on my hand lettering skills… I intended to pick a theme for each month, then letter and illustrate quotes in that theme, and post them on my other blog. For five months I stayed the course and I lettered some really nice quotes — quotes about new beginnings, love and friendship, life, home, and gardens. I drew pictures of flowers, bikes, and houses, and found new ways to design letters.
After my ectopic pregnancy, however, my lettering pretty much stopped. I have managed to letter a few here and there, but overall I’ve done very little practice since the beginning of June. I still have a large collection of quotes on a spreadsheet and I occasionally sit down with my materials and attempt to design something… but I don’t feel inspired like I used to. The ideas don’t come to me like they used to. I’ve abandoned a variety of attempts and not had the energy to start others.
I really wanted to letter something for Thanksgiving. Something on gratitude. I stared for days at gratitude quotes. Only one whispered any kind of an idea to me, and when I put pen to paper I failed to capture it. I closed my notebook and put my pens away. They’ll keep until I’m ready to letter again.
Another creative endeavor that’s currently on hold for me is scrapbooking… I usually love to scrapbook. But since my pregnancy it’s been really hard for me to even consider working on my scrapbooks. At this time I have so many complicated feelings about scrapbooking that I’m working on a blog post about it. Stay tuned.
Additionally, I’m no longer interested in playing my piano. I used to practice nearly every day, and now… I can’t even remember the last time I touched the keys. I actually had the piano tuned two weeks ago for the first time in over a year in hopes that I might get inspired soon and start playing again, but so far I haven’t played a single note.
Infertility, loss, and their close companion depression have seemingly killed my creativity. And I hate it. I’ve tried so hard to not let infertility ruin everything, but it is sneaky and has managed to impact all kinds of things in my life — including limiting my ability to be creative in the ways I’m used to. I’m no longer inspired to create music or art or scrapbooks. I used to love these things and now the thought of doing them brings me no joy.
So what does a depressed, infertile, hurting girl do when her normal creative outlets aren’t inspiring, interesting, or enjoyable?
Well. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but here’s what I’ve come up with so far for myself:
Let it be.
I don’t force it. I see no point in making myself work on a creative project if I’m not interested or inspired. Sometimes when I wish I were inspired, I go sit with my materials and see what happens. If inspiration strikes, I run with it (see my second to last point) and if not, I get up and do something else. I’m not happy that I haven’t scrapbooked more than two pages over the last six months, for example, but I’m not going to beat myself up about my lack of progress. It is what it is. I let it be.
Find other outlets for creativity.
At times it has been useful for me to find different ways to explore creativity. I don’t always have to be doing the same activities as I would normally do… infertility and loss are extreme experiences, so I think it’s ok if I change up other things in my life too. When I need a creative outlet and my “go-to” activities aren’t working, I look to what else I have enjoyed in the past or don’t do very often, or I try new activities.
Sometimes I color. I have a variety of coloring books — all gifts from loved ones — and sometimes coloring is just the thing I need for a calming, creative activity.
Sometimes I crochet. This requires thinking of something to make, but when I’m inspired for a project, I’ve found that crocheting can be very soothing and enjoyable.
Sometimes I dabble in painting. I have taken a few painting classes with friends since June… you know — the kind where you sip on your wine and the instructor tells you which color to use next and where? Turns out those are pretty fun! In addition to canvas painting, I also painted some pottery this summer, and I love the mug I designed.
And sometimes I do something completely different: earlier this year I was inspired to create new playlists. I made playlist after playlist with different themes. My favorite one is a list that I named “this too shall pass”. It’s full of songs about getting through hard times and being ok. We also have a fun “wake up music” list with songs about the morning and waking up. There’s one called “pretty sweet” with songs about sugar, sweetness, and honey. We have lists called “dreamy” and “sky songs” and many more… Sorting through our music and creating new playlists was such a great project for me, and it’s been useful too — the lists have received lots of playtime on our stereo and iPods.
Find other activities to do.
Other times, I do something else entirely… Just because I’m normally pretty creative doesn’t mean I need to be creative all the time. Sometimes I need to do something else. Read. Take a walk. Watch a movie. Play a game. Sometimes my mind just needs a break or a change of scene or focus.
Run with it when inspiration strikes.
When inspiration does strike, I go with it. I try to take advantage of any and all inspiration when it presents itself. I’ve always kind of been like that, so I’ve had a lot of practice running with inspiration. I do feel like inspiration strikes less and less these days, but when it does hit, I switch gears as soon as I can and get working.
Give myself space.
When I look back over my time with infertility I sometimes feel guilty for having accomplished what feels like so little. My former self would have been working on this project and that project, and being useful and productive. But sitting with the grief of infertility and loss is hard, hard work. It’s demanding and exhausting. Sometimes I feel so depleted from dealing with everything in my reality that there’s just no room for anything else, and I have give myself time and space to heal. And by giving myself that space, I also think that I’m keeping myself open for inspiration to present itself, and that I’m open to my creativity even if it’s different from what I’m used to. I hope that in time, once I’ve had space to heal, some of my former creative endeavors will be enjoyable and meaningful again. And until then, we’ll see what else comes up.