Creativity Interrupted

The Hut in the Woods.

It happens to us all from time to time: something (often, more than one thing) comes along to distract or prevent us from doing our creative work. For many, judging by comments from blog posts, tweets, and on Facebook, that interruption of the creative flow can be physically as well as mentally and spiritually draining.

Throughout my lengthy life I’ve always felt better in all ways when engaged on creative projects. Any interruption to the process results in a physical decline, a change of mood, and a reduction in mental acuity. It’s one reason I’m compelled to write. As well as writing, I make pictures using photography.

For the past fourteen months I’ve been in pain, sometimes a dull ache but often a debilitating hurt that stops me doing many things. Recently, I was referred to a musculo-skeletal assessor by the physiotherapist who’s been trying to resolve this chronic back pain. She sent me for an MRI scan and they discovered my pain is caused by a trapped nerve, which explains the pains in my hip and foot as well.

I’ve now been prescribed neuropathic painkillers as a first step toward mitigating the condition. And therein lies a new issue. These pills can impact on the brain. At odd times I’m in a mental fog, sometimes unable to concentrate, sometimes snappy for no apparent reason, sometimes drowsy. Not the best state when trying to work on a novel at the important initial edit of the first draft!

But I hate wasted time, so I’ve been doing those tasks we all should but that we put off because our time can be better spent doing what we most enjoy. I’ve been ‘tidying’ my PC. Deleting unwanted files accumulated over years: bits and pieces of information that seemed vital at the time but have remained unaccessed for years, sometimes decades.

I’d also bought new software to edit my photographs. So much software is described as ‘intuitive’. But for whom is this true? Not me. No matter, I discovered a manual online. I prefer such tomes in print, as I can’t read long pieces on screen. I downloaded each section (separately, due to the mix of formats and many large pictures). Once copied into a Word doc, I had a book of 379 A4 (11×8½ inches, for USA readers) pages. The tome now lies open at an early stage, awaiting further attention. I also enrolled on a video course, downloaded so I don’t have to be online to use it. Together, these resources will ultimately allow me to actually use the software.

But the brain-wrecking painkillers moved in and I paused the learning. Another creative element closed off.

In the meantime, I checked my collection of images for duplicates and shots of little use or value. I began with 20,406 picture files (varying from under 1Mb to over 25Mbs, with most at the high end, so they take up a lot of storage space). Over several days, I’ve examined every image (yes, each one) with the result I now have 14,466 images I need keep. The rest, 5,960, have been ditched as duplicates, temporary pictures for specific projects, or poor-quality images.

Now I seem to have tamed the pain and regained my brain to some extent, I’ve fewer images to edit. I’m still taking the tablets, but they’re no longer intruding so deeply into my thought processes.

I’m writing and posting this piece because some time ago (can’t recall when, but earlier this year) I wrote a post promising a creative piece each Wednesday. I was reminded of this by another writer asking for a contribution on ‘creativity’ to her blog. I’ve singularly failed to keep that promise. The foregoing is my excuse/reason/explanation (select as preferred) for this.

To add a little more sympathy-seeking to my excuse…sorry, ‘reason’, I also have a progressive autoimmune condition known succinctly as ‘Hashimoto’s sub-clinical hypothyroidism’, a failing of the thyroid to do its rather vital work. One of the many symptoms of this condition is lack of energy due to poor processing of food by the body.

So, there you have it. In reality, sympathy I can do without, but I seek your understanding whilst I get back to whatever is ‘normal’ for me. My new novel has had to await attention until now. I’m in a better state to begin the long and demanding process of editing it to be fit to send to my publisher. And I’ll attempt, for the sake of my mental and physical wellbeing, to produce a creative post next week.

Thank you for your time, patience, and attention.

And the picture heading this post? Just my first experiment with the new software. (There’s another story there, but I won’t bore you with it here. Just to say another three hours of my life have been sacrificed to the demons that run computer tech!)

15 thoughts on “Creativity Interrupted

  1. I have Rheumatoid Arthritis and on days where the pain is less Im often very fatigued. When I decide to write or draw I know it will likely come with a recovery period. While its motivating for some people to plan posts and such, for me it can take away the enjoyment in the process.

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    1. Hi Charlie. Thanks for the comment. I enjoyed your flower drawing. I understand your response regarding planned activity – spontaneous actions can be so much more rewarding.
      I generally enjoy all the different parts of a creative project, including editing in the case of writing. And I write as a pantster, so no plotting for me. Infact, the only ‘plan’ is a loose skeleton which exists only in my mind. Once I’ve created characters, I place them in whatever setting I feel will best suit the themes I wish to explore and then place barriers in their way and let them direct their route to a conclusion I usually have in mind. Of course, those characters sometimes surprise me and the story ends up with a different outcome from that I envisaged at the start. And, also, the process means a great deal of editing is needed once the basic story is down on paper.
      Seeing your drawing has increased my wish to draw the design for the current WIP, so thank you. I must get that started soon.


    1. Thanks, Kathy. Oddly, standing is the worst position for me. I can walk, move around, even sit for lenghty periods, but if I stand for more than three or four minutes the pain increases. We take a daily walk in the forest and it always makes me feel better. But the odd few minutes spent chatting with other walkers we meet invariably brings back the pain. I suspect it’s to do with the constant pressure on the trapped nerve, which seems to respond better to varied movement. Equally oddly, I also find lying down uncomfortable.
      I’ve sugested to Valerie that she should take me to the knacker’s yard or swap me for a new model, but she seems reluctant to do that.
      But things are gradually improving, so fingers crossed…


        1. The forearms are probably the only part of me currently working as they should (though my performance at the badminton club the other night might suggest otherwise. I had a steroid injection in my right funny bone years ago after somehow acquiring tennis elbow without playing the game. It worked a treat, though. And, yes I’m still playing badminton on one night of the week – I grunt and groan a lot, but it gives my opponents something other than my poor shots to complain about!
          Humour; the only thing keeping me going – apart, that is, from the love of my good lady.


    1. Thanks, Mick. Necessity has forced me to change deadlines; but I find it so frustrating, especially when there are so many things in the world in need of attention.

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    1. Thanks, Lynette. The back pain is slowly easing, which definitley helps. And my lovely wife makes sure I mostly do what’s best for me (occasionally she catches me doing a job I ought to have left alone, and then I’m forced to admit it probably wasn’t a good idea!).

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  2. Pain and medication can be a real drain on creative abilities. Hubby ended up having an operation to ease his similar back pain. I hope you find relief soon.

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