When We Fall Off Our Creative Wagons | Part 1

I had breakfast with a friend the other day. We are both mothers of young children and we have both fairly recently started stepping more deliberately into our creative interests. We first met at Interlude, our favorite neighborhood cafe in TriBeCa, NYC, thanks to my fluffy doodle, who is often an irresistible conversation starter.

My friend is a stunningly talented illustrator. I, obviously, write. Neither of us really has professional experience in our respective crafts. For both of us, the last several years have been consumed by motherhood. Recently, we’ve felt a shift — an internal calling suggesting that it’s time to explore who are now.

It’s fascinating how much more clearly we can see others than we can see ourselves, isn’t it? It’s so easy for me to believe in someone else’s capabilities, to support another unconditionally, to make sure I’m only sending positive mojo their way. When I think of my friend’s path, I am so certain she is right where she should be and I am so excited for her.

It is much harder work to believe in myself in this way.

Luckily, we have each other. We remind each other. We call each other out when we have fallen off the wagon. Over a 3-hour breakfast that day, we vented, we confessed, we philosophized, we shared our dreams, and we admitted what had gotten us off track.

As a reminder to myself and with the thought that our conversation might be useful to others, I wanted to share our musings:

On the toxicity of distractions.

Distractions come in many forms. Notification pings on our phones and computers. Incessant checking of emails. Other people’s dramas. Personal conflicts. Pursuits of our Egos. Insatiable consumption. Social media.

It can apparently take 20–30 minutes to refocus after being distracted by one ping or even a silent banner pop-up. This is an incredibly unacceptable amount of time to lose because someone or something else demands our attention.

On thinking we need validation from someone else, often our partners.

“I need him to tell me I’m talented and he believes in me.”

“I need him to tell me he understands that I went through postpartum depression and that he knows it’s an actual disease.”

“I need him to tell me he knows I am not lazy, immature, or selfish, but that it took me a minute (okay fine, years) to figure out that he and I go through socks at a totally different pace so it would be helpful if I checked the hamper more frequently.”

This need for validation extends to the rest of the world, particularly in our current social media dominant climate of Followers and Likes. The self comparisons that result from seeing what other people are doing. The idea that I need to be somebody to be somebody…but wait, aren’t I already somebody?

The opinion that matters the most is our own. Believe in ourselves first. Validate ourselves first. I’m not sure anyone else’s approval even matters.

On magical, external solutions such as yoga retreats, a sabbatical, a mantra, crystal healing… this list can go on and on.

The answer to self-awareness surely does not exist on the other side of someone else’s business plan. Of course taking time off can be immensely helpful, but it is not essential. And it’s easy to get confused that the getting away itself is the answer. No, it is just a different setting for the moment. The answers, the light, is always always always within. Certain practices and choices can hone our ability to hear what is within ourselves, and as most of us were never taught this growing up, it is probably necessary to become a student in some way. But how many spiritual texts can you read? How many so-called gurus can you seek out? At a certain point you realize, wait. I am one with the Cosmos/God/the Divine. I am the Universe expressing itself as Me. There is nothing in someone else — or on some mystical beach in Thailand — that is not already, necessarily within me.

On learning to find and listen to your true inner voice.

Re-patterning the muscle memory of your thinking. Get to know the voice that is most frequently in your own head. Your wisdom voice, the voice of your Soul, does not endlessly admonish, criticize, and judge. Become aware of the voice you are always listening to and catch yourself when that voice is unkind or unhelpful. Be glad that you caught that voice. Don’t get stuck there, further bashing yourself for speaking to yourself unkindly. This is the brilliantly bullish nature of the Ego. Be aware, say “Oh hi, I recognize you,” and then hit Stop. Feed yourself Truth instead. I am learning to thank my body for moving, my legs for holding me up, my arms for being able to hold my kid and hug my husband, my core for sticking with me after being ripped open, for trying its best to rebuild and reconnect, my hips for still being flexible. It seems ridiculously simple but when I hear all of this, I am not hearing what I used to hear: I never got my pre-pregnancy body back. My arms are huge. My thighs are huge. Would this be considered a muffin top or a spare tire? Both? I have white hairs. I have wrinkles. Has my skin always been this horribly dry?

Get a new soundtrack. Think about how you would talk to a close friend. Do you look at that person and see all her imperfections and shout them into her ear? No? Then why would you do that to your very self, to your very body that literally gives you Life.

On getting the f*ck off of social media, apps, websites, etc etc etc that make you feel bad about yourself.

This is 100% in your control. Just don’t do it.

There is such a fine line between Following what someone else is doing and feeling inspired and feeling not good enough. Yes, it can be beneficial to learn from others. But you know if something is helpful or not based on how you FEEL after taking it in. It would be like eating a food that you don’t like the taste of and that you are allergic to that makes you vomit or break out into hives. Yet you continue to compulsively consume it. Your body is rejecting it, clear as day. Yet you insist on continuing to take it into your body. Wait, no? You wouldn’t force yourself to eat something that makes you feel terrible? Because that would be, well, stupid? It’s no different to the metaphorical digital food we choose to consume. And be not mistaken — this is our own choice. Don’t let anyone tell you that you HAVE to have (or worse — BE) a “BRAND.” That you HAVE to hit 10,000 Followers so you can utilize the “swipe up” function. You don’t HAVE to do anything. Remember — you’re a human BEing, not a human doing.

Part 2 of this post:

When We Fall Off Our Creative Wagons — Part 2

An artist’s tool known as Kitchen Timer

I am a mama, writer, yoga teacher, and mental health advocate.
More posts by Leah Kim.

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