In my life coach role, I frequently work with writers. Perhaps so many of my clients are writers because writing is so important to me, and I really get the struggles and joys of the writing life.
At any rate, I often have clients who are at some point in the process of creating something — whether that’s a book or a painting or a play. They might be in the excitement (and trepidation) of beginning. Or they might have finished something, and aren’t sure what’s next for them.
One of the most challenging stages of creating something — and the place where so many of our fears and our icky inner critic stuff can come up — is the “messy middle.”
Maybe we’ve lost some steam with our project. Maybe we’ve lost our way a bit. Maybe — God forbid! — we’ve gotten a bit bored with what we’re creating. (And does that mean we should give it up and move on to something else? In many cases, no! It just means we’re in the messy middle.)
This is the time, my friends, for kindness.
Just how kind can you be to yourself — and your creative work — when you are in this place of feeling like you’re not sure you want to go on with what you’re doing? (I wrote about the importance of kindness to the creative process here.)
I remember getting lost in a store when I was a kid. I was probably about four. One minute I was with my mom and everything was fine, and the next my mom was nowhere in sight and the gleaming aisles of the store might as well have been miles wide. (I think it was Kmart!)
It was probably only a couple of minutes before my mom found me, but I remember during that brief window of time telling myself how stupid I was for getting lost, how mad my mom was going to be at me, and how the adults around me were very scary and there’s no way they’d help me.
Sound familiar? Even to your adult self? We learn very early to be hard on ourselves when things feel scary and disorienting. But this is exactly when we need to slow down, reorient ourselves to our surroundings, and breathe.
Once you’ve given yourself permission to slow down for a moment (or hey, how about a whole day?), it’s time to reconnect with your “why”.
What prompted you to begin this work in the first place? What made it so important that you actually began it? (Beginning is huge! We often avoid it.)
What was the feeling state you desired when you thought about creating this thing? It is always a feeling we seek, and not anything else, when it comes down to it. The “result” — whatever it may be — is only of value to us because of how we believe it will make us feel. How can you reconnect with that feeling?
The “messy middle” can also be a time that we’re tempted to compare ourselves to others whose middles are long in the past (we see the results of them having made it through their own messy middles, but not the middles themselves). Just as we sometimes compare our beginnings to others’ “halfway-throughs,” we can compare our middles to their finished products.
What I love about the creative process is how it is a metaphor for the process of living itself. While the beginning of a relationship, for example, often has its share of trepidation (can I trust? should I trust? Is it safe?), it also has plenty of excitement (the possibility of love! sex! learning each other’s secrets!).
The middle of a relationship, however, may seem frightfully unexciting. (Is that all there is? Is this really it? Where do we go from here? This is especially true if you are a reformed drama junkie, as I am.)
In life, perhaps even more so than in our creative projects, we are challenged to reconnect with our “why.” (And remember: you are always in relationship to your creative work. It’s a relationship like any other!)
Can we reconnect? Absolutely. The real question, though, is do we want to? And if we do, what might support us in doing so?
These are the questions to ask. Their answers will guide us back to connection, with our project, with our loved one, or they will guide us to somewhere else, where the love truly is for us, today.
What helps you through the “messy middle” in your creative process? How do you reconnect with your “why” when you seem to have lost it? I’d love to hear from you.
Happy Earth Day! Let’s extend our kindness to this beautiful planet and all of its amazing creatures. In honor of Earth Day, my individual coaching sessions are at a special price, through the end of this month (April 30). Find out more on my Ways We Can Work Together page.
Coming up: My one-on-one coaching program, Stellar Self-Care (In an Overwhelming World), will start enrolling in May. Want to learn more? You can sign up for my newsletter to receive the details, here. You can find out about other ways we can work together, here.