Our thanks to author, coach and speaker Kayce Stevens Hughlett for this inspiring guest post, and to freedigitalphotos.net for the wish-we-were-here photo!
What does it feel like when you hit a dry spell in your writing or creativity? Does your process ever seem as if you’re rolling through the desert like a dejected (or rejected) tumbleweed? Maybe you’re not even rolling. Instead you’re stuck next to a towering Saguaro cactus with prickly spines digging into your pride shouting things like, “Give it up, buddy. Get a life, sling some burgers, trim the cat’s nose hairs. Do anything but write, ‘cuz you suck at it.”
If this hasn’t ever happened to you then feel free to quit reading immediately and return to your brilliant career as an always-inspired artist. I salute you.
Me? I’ve hit that spot so many times I couldn’t begin to give you the count. I’m dizzy from rolling around in that arid space. Sometimes the spin cycle happens over the course of a day. Other times, it lasts for a few months or a season. When Shari Stauch asked me to write this piece, I had just poked my head out of the desert.
It’s summer here in Seattle. The rain is coming down and I, for once, am thrilled. My personal drought is over… for the time being. Why do I always think it will last forever? Have I learned nothing as an author, coach, and woman?
The only thing I can count on in life is that things will change.
From November 2012 through February 2014, I steadfastly poured myself into the project of novel writing. Steadfastly poured? Who am I kidding? I seem to have forgotten the weeks that the project lay dormant. (It’s easy to forget the desert when you’re sipping margaritas at the oasis.) Still… during that time period, I wrote, edited, re-wrote, took a class, joined a new writing group, hired an editor, re-wrote, and harangued my friends and family with the process. I sent out query letters— celebrating the send and mourning the subsequent rejections. I decided I wasn’t really a writer.
I set the novel aside, giving it (and me) space to breathe. I practiced my self-coaching tools. I practiced watching Netflix (a lot). I decided to embrace the springtime and go to Paris for inspiration. I became inspired with everything except writing. I bought scarves and croissants and perfected my selfie portrait technique. Time passed.
I opened my eyes one morning and realized it was summer, so I began to embrace gardening, bike rides, farmers’ markets, picnics at the beach, and trips out of town. It was glorious until one day a friend asked, “How’s the novel?” The novel? My novel? The one I was certain would be snapped up by the first agent I presented it to? The one I set as a goal for publication this year? The one that’s been sitting in my drawer for almost six months now?
And just like that, I remembered I am a writer. It is the air I breathe. The water in my desert. The sunshine in my spring. Cheesy, I know, but you get the point. In one splendid and terrifying moment, I was back in the grasp of creation. I had a choice to make. I could stall or I could make something happen. The choice to do nothing was gone.
I weighed my options. I could take another class, hire one more expert, and pour more time and energy into a project I knew was ready to move out of my hands. Big edits felt like stalling. My inner critic became very chatty. You’re not good enough. This is crap. Give it up, girl. Go to the beach.
I heard what the critic had to say, acknowledged her, and then invited her to take a long hike (perhaps in the Sahara desert). I got out my journal and wrote about resistance… resisting every step of the way. At least I was doing something. I fixated on the word “make” for a while, because it seemed like as good a plan as any, and then this tiny acronym popped out.
Something inside me shifted and settled.
Yes, my art keeps evolving… and there comes a point when we have to say ‘good enough’ and let it go. We must launch ourselves and/or our projects out into the world. So, I declared my novel good enough, painstakingly filled out another set of submission guidelines, pressed the send button, did a happy dance, and went to the beach.
Seasons change. We change. Our art evolves. We always have a choice. What will yours be today?
Kayce Stevens Hughlett is a soulful and spirited woman. In her roles as life coach, writer, speaker, and ponderer extraordinaire, she invites individuals and groups to playfully and fearlessly cross thresholds toward authentic living. Kayce is a published author, long-time blogger, and contributor to several collections and online publications. Her 2012 book, As I Lay Pondering: daily invitations to live a transformed life, is a lyrical and lucid treasure that invites readers to new awakenings throughout the year. Her recently completed novel, Blue, is currently seeking a publication home. Learn more about her creative coaching, ponderings, and personalized Parisian adventures at www.liveittogiveit.me.