You don’t DO creative, you BE creative

Why did I hit the Wall last week?

Why did I feel flat after weeks of excitement leading to an overseas writing retreat? Why did I feel not a spark of creativity? Why did I begin to doubt my own creativity?

In hindsight, it’s so obvious (isn’t it always?) – too much DO-ing and not enough BE-ing.

Let’s put it another way. You BE creative, you don’t DO creative.

And if you get to the point where you can’t BE, you need to take a break. As my friend Sonia said, “Creativity needs time to breathe”. Yes! When I read those words, I had an ‘Aha’ moment, a moment where I knew she got exactly where I was coming from, and in a few short words, nailed it.

I was DOing so much that I smothered my creativity, my need to BE, and then I hit the Wall. Bam! And Self-Doubt sailed into my waking life for days, stifling whatever fragment of creativity still existed at that moment.

In her book Still Life with Teapot, Brigid Lowry has a terrific perspective on writer’s block (or in my case, DOing creative) which really resonated with me:

“If you are not writing, don’t write. Stop! Fully and completely … do this without guilt or punishment. You are not a pasta machine. You’ll only turn out poor quality work if you force yourself onwards, grudging and unwilling… These days, when I don’t want to write, I surrender to that.”

So how did I get over the Wall? I allowed myself time to BE. I nurtured my Self. Read books. Visited friends. Went to bookshops. Watched Netflix. Walked. Went to a classical concert. Baked. Gardened. Played with the cat. Just … hung out.

I didn’t push myself to be creative at all. I surrendered to the fact that I didn’t feel like it (or like very much at all).


And then, once I had time for my Self, I accepted that my feelings – doubt, exhaustion, confusion, worry, uncertainty – were okay (and temporary) and let them go.

I’ll come up against the Wall again. I know myself. I DO all the time and forget to BE. I get so excited about all the wonderful things to DO … and eventually my Self says ‘That’s enough’. But I’m not afraid to meet the Wall – even though I don’t like it – because it keeps me in check. Gets me to focus. And reminds me why I do what I do – write.

I’m ready again. I’m ready to, as Brigid suggests, ‘Write with every ounce of your being”.



Picture of Monique Mulligan

Monique Mulligan

8 Responses

  1. I firmly believe that this opportunity to spend a few days DOing things other than writing will be reflected in renewed energy, purpose and inspiration in your writing. And I’m delighted to see that you found so many other ways to BE creative while getting read to surmount that wall. xx

    1. I think so too, Maureen. Please remind me next time I hit the Wall. I have really enjoyed making cups of tea and reading. Just because.

  2. So pleased that it was a temporary blip and that my words helped- Its a feeling I know well as I try to cram everything into the time I have- as a late starter I always feel like the white rabbit that ‘I’m late! I’m late!’. Nourishing others but never ourselves.

    1. So true, Sonia. And yes, your words were a bit of a lightbulb moment and prompted that post straight away. I just waited a week to finish writing it.

  3. Monique, you were BEing creative in other ways while taking a break from writing. You baked, gardened, played with the dog, nurtured yourself and your friends and read, which is an essential part of writing, in which a reader creatively completes the work another writer has begun. No wonder you are ready to back to your work refreshed and re-energised. Writers, and all creatives, need to be creative in many different ways, often all at once, which feed into each other.

    1. I really appreciate this, Maureen. You are right. I didn’t stop being creative, I just needed to direct my energy elsewhere for a while.

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