During my years as an IT manager, I had one HARD AND FAST rule. Don’t pick up the phone to dial my number unless you have rebooted your computer. Why? Because simply rebooting solves 90% of computer problems. The reason it works is rather simple. RAM is the same as your brain’s short term memory. When it starts to get full, additional information ‘leaks’ out in fragments, making it harder and harder to process whole files. Rebooting the computer clears RAM. The human brain works the same way, with sleep as the ‘reboot’ mechanism.
It isn’t news that certain conditions fill the brain’s ‘RAM’ faster, making it harder to see impending failures. Lack of sleep causes a number of neurological dysfunctions, especially memory loss. It can also lead to depression, emotional instability and eventually a full decompensation. The irony is that emotional instability causes lack of sleep, initiating a truly vicious cycle. I have always found it amusing, albeit a little disturbing, that creativity is often associated with mental illness. Each time I consider that quandary, I can’t help visualizing a chicken, feathers half gone, standing next to a broken egg.
For various reasons, at different times in my life, I have been given personality tests. Each one produced the same result with no room for alternative interpretations. I have a dyed-in-the-wool, etched-in-stone creative personality.
Another laughable irony is that creative people need approval and acceptance of their work. It is the very nature of creativity to bring into existence that which WE find appealing. Why then would we need acceptance from anyone else? Validation? Most certainly. Confidence? Sure. A reason to create? Not even a little. Creativity is an internal engine made up of gears that NEVER stop turning. Let me repeat that. NEVER.STOP.TURNING. I’m sure everyone reading this has had a conversation with a creative person who said, “No, I don’t sleep well,” or “No, I didn’t hear what the teacher said,” and my personal favorite, “No, I didn’t see that pebble I just tripped over.” You may be looking at that iron work gate that stands in the path to your next destination, but we are looking at the same gate thinking of a ghost story in which that iron work gate plays a part. We’ll want to touch it, listen to the sounds it makes as it opens and closes, smell the air around it, and take a picture of it so that we can remember exactly what it looks like later when we describe it in our story. And it all happens in a fraction of a second, while you lock the gate behind you. You’ve walked through the gate on your way to your next destination, and you’re watching while your creative mate is fondling the gate. Frustrating, isn’t it?
Because we are compelled to create all the time, we go through periods where we look at our creative works and we compare it to others’ works. We listen to those we admire and we take every word to heart, and then we self-flagellate while we try to fix every detail we feel is lacking. We fall farther and farther into the rabbit hole, until we are buried in our fear of failure and inadequacy, all for something we LIVE to do. We get depressed. We feel like quitting. We walk away.
That’s what I’ve been doing for the last few weeks. It’s an interesting sensation. I’ve watched myself spiral into it and flail my emotional arms reaching for anything that would make me feel better. External stresses – work, illness, family – just made it worse. But this morning, I felt the reboot starting, my power returning, getting back to that place where I can once again see what I want for myself. I’m exercising my ‘I don’t care’ more and extracting myself from wanting to fix everything for everyone else. As I set down the balls I’ve been juggling, I get back the energy I was using to keep them aloft.
My reboot takes a bit more than added sleep, but it is MY reboot. Everyone has a different requirement. Sometimes, it’s hard to let go of things that fulfill a need to control something, anything. Some part of the creative mind longs for the kind of control that gives immediate gratification, but it is fleeting. The real sense of satisfaction comes from having created something new, something that gives us a sense of moving forward.
One small step at a time, but forward it is.