Making friends with creative transition

making friends with creative transitionRecently I spoke with a client who had just completed a massive project that took several years of her life to bring to fruition. It was a huge accomplishment for her to send her “baby” out into the world, and she was really happy about it.

Except that … she also wasn’t. She also felt lost and … sad?

How could this be? This was the time she’d been waiting for! In fact, at points during her journey she’d sworn the project would never be finished and couldn’t wait for it to leave her hands.

Because this was the first creative project of this scope that my client had seen from start to finish, she was unprepared for the letdown she felt when it was done. And it was making her really nervous that she wasn’t sure what her next project would be.

She didn’t even have any ideas. She kept trying to grab onto opportunities that came her way, but none of them felt right.

What my client was feeling was so, so normal.

When we imagine finishing something big, we often envision the elation that will come with the accomplishment but we don’t realize that there is a sense of loss in finishing, too.

We get thrown into “creative transition.”

Our tendency during these times is to rush ourselves through them because they feel so uncomfortable.

If we rush ourselves through, though, we miss out on the opportunity to become the new “us” that the transition time provides. That’s what transitions are, after all — bridges or tunnels from one version of ourselves to the next.

It’s kind of like when we end a relationship. Most of us have had that experience of breaking up with someone and then (oh, crap!) getting back together with them a week or a month later.

What happened there? We crawled back into our former lives, not quite ready to go through the “deep cocooning”  process we must embrace in order to emerge as that new “us.”

This is okay. As Robyn Posin says in one of her wonderful posts, we’re never fully anywhere until all of us arrives there. (I’m also reminded of an episode of Seinfeld where Jerry compares ending a relationship to knocking over a Coke machine. It has to rock back and forth a few times before the whole thing falls over.)

So what can we do to make times of creative transition easier? Here are a few suggestions.

* Allow yourself to come down from the trip.

Recognize that at the end of a long creative journey, we’re often functioning — to some extent — on adrenaline. This is especially true if we have a bunch of deadlines to meet or events to attend in order to complete our journey and we’re (understandably) tired. Adrenaline will kick in to help us make it through.

Remember how badly you wanted the semester to be over back in college, and you got all your papers in and exams taken, and then didn’t know what to do with yourself for a few days? That’s because you were still pumped with adrenaline and it was compelling you to do something, anything! When we come down from that heightened state (which, by the way, is not healthy for us to remain in), we will feel more centered and present and at choice.

* Allow yourself to feel sadness and loss.

There is nothing wrong with you if you feel a sense of loss and even grief after achieving a huge success. It is part of the natural process of moving from one phase of life to another. It’s normal to enter a “liminal state” at this time, what Martha Beck refers to as “Square One.” (Martha’s wonderful book Finding Your Own North Star explains “Square One” at length.)

* This is an excellent time to cultivate curiosity.

As the sadness and loss mix with your joy at your achievement and wash through you, what’s taking your interest? What do you notice about the change in yourself from the beginning of this journey to now? As you move through your daily life, what are you needing? Comfort? Connection with trusted friends?

Journaling about what you’re going through can be a great way to gain more awareness of your current needs, and the ways your inner compass is pointing you to your next step.

* It’s okay to go slow — in fact, it’s best to go slow — at this time.

When you allow yourself slowness as you enter creative transition, you really get a chance to experience who you’re becoming and what this transition is all about (though that may not be totally clear to you until you exit the transition phase!). This time is an amazing gift and you’ll never get it back in exactly the same form again. So how can you find ways to savor rather than hurry it?

You may need support in doing this. Our culture does not encourage savoring and slowness. Trust that support is out there in the form you need it!

What have you noticed about creative transitions for yourself? Has anything in particular helped to make them easier for you? I’d love to hear from you.

And: These are the last several days (through March 31) to purchase my package of four coaching sessions as I will have new offerings up on my site soon (I can’t wait to share them with you!). The package of four saves you $75 and is a great way to get ongoing support from me. Take a look here to learn more!

Image is “Tunnel Under Railroad” © Peterguess | Dreamstime Stock Photos

8 thoughts on “Making friends with creative transition

  1. Hi Jill,
    Yet again your post has perfect timing! The last week or two I have been wondering how I can change my experience of “being wiped out” … when really what I get from your post that it is part of a NATURAL creative cycle that asks/offers us as you say time to “slow” and “savor” … thank you! Happy Easter, Lee


    • Hi Lee! So glad this post was timely for you. I hear you — I was experiencing a “wiped out” feeling at the beginning of the year and noticed that the more I tried to change it, the more it hung on. I finally decided to allow it — and sure enough, the energy of it has changed on its own. Good to hear from you — a very happy Easter and transition to spring to you, too! 🙂


  2. Jill, as usual, this post came at the perfect time — it’s almost eerie how your writing speaks to what I’m pondering in a given week, and I know I’m not the only one!

    Lately I’ve been feeling skittish and apprehensive about finishing up the draft of a new book, but I didn’t know why. When I read your post and took some time to write about the issue, I realized that it stems from a past creative loss, one that I pushed myself to ‘just get over’.

    At the time, I didn’t slow down and acknowledge how hard I’d worked and how sad I felt that things didn’t go as planned. But now, I’m learning to be kinder, to allow those feelings and not rush through them. And I am so thankful to you for giving me permission to do that!


    • Caroline, that is fascinating, and I really relate. It’s interesting how those past, unacknowledged creative losses can show up and tug at us until we give them attention, and how freeing it is to feel them and let them go. Doing a little inquiry into it can be such a relief, like, ahhh — so that’s what’s going on! So glad you’re approaching it all with kindness. I’m happy the post was helpful, and thanks for reading — I always love hearing from you! 🙂


  3. Oh I’m so familiar with that come down at the completion of a big project! It happens every time, and somehow I always forget! It’s almost as if I am forced to surrender to a kind of nothingness, and it IS really uncomfortable for as long as I fight it, which is usually a good little while. 🙂 And like you say, when I finally let go, the cycle is able to turn again and more energy becomes available for the next thing{s} I want to create. It’s almost as if we have an inbuilt mechanism that factors in a time to rest.


    • Tara, that’s a great way of putting it — “forced to surrender to a kind of nothingness.” Yes, that’s what happens, and I usually fight it for a while, too! I agree that we do have some sort of rejuvenating inner mechanism that insists on rest between periods of high activity — when we finally accept it. 🙂 Thank you for sharing, always good to hear from you!


  4. Jill, I enjoyed this post & know so well what you are describing, after having published 8 books. It so important to pause and recover after all that adrenalin pumping. My favourite way is to book a nurturing retreat for myself. I like your phrase ‘deep cocooning’: that’s exactly it.


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