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So frickin’ predictable: The creative process

By June 3, 2010Writing

Let’s get it out on the table now. In this post, I talk about the female reproductive system. It’s an exquisite, natural and magical process that I beg you not to be squeamish about. That said, men, there are things here for you too, on several levels. Even if you spend most or all of your time on Man Island (which, from what I can tell, sounds very, very boring). If girly, reproductive things didn’t exist, you wouldn’t be here, after all. Word to your mother.

I generally consider myself to be a smart person. but every 28 days or so, something happens that makes me doubt this. And I mean really doubt this.

It starts physically.

I wake up one morning and I’ve apparently gained 20 lbs. while I was sleeping. It makes no sense. I haven‘t been eating more than usual. I have been sweating profusely for at least an hour every morning on running shoes, blades or bike wheels. But my clothes now resemble the casing of a sausage, several parts of my body suddenly favor the contents of an overstuffed sandwich.

About 30 seconds later, I come to the only logical answer: I’m old and I’ve reached that point in my life where no matter what I do, it’s a downhill slide to old, out-of-shape and ugly.

I get pissed. Why today? I ask, shaking my hands at the sky. It’s been going so well. I’m not ready! NOT YET!

The next thing that happens is equally as startling.

One minute I’m happily typing away thinking about how great life is and then—BOOM. It all sucks. And I mean to tell you that the suckage is hoover-sized, black and sticky. I can’t find one thing that’s good. I’m irrationally angry at everyone. It’s like road-rage without the road or the cars, but with everything else within spitting distance. And beyond.

I call my beloveds and cry and bemoan the fact that this is all for shit. That I don’t even think my dog loves me anymore. That I don’t even want to write. Just cry and sleep. And sit on someone’s big, warm, comforting lap.

It always ends the same way.

(By the way, if you didn’t see this coming and you’re a woman, then ‘I’ll have what she’s having.’ If you didn’t see this coming and you’re a man, you will never, ever be my boyfriend.)

Yes. A few days later, I inexplicably get my period. And it’s the ‘inexplicable’ part that really gets me and makes me doubt my intelligence. Because here’s the thing: this brilliant reproductive phenomenon has rained down upon me an estimated 301 times, thus far. THREE HUNDRED AND ONE TIMES.

That’s a lot, wouldn’t you say? And you would think, then, that I would get it, that when my entire body bloats up like a dead frog in a pond and I’m more irritated than a teenager at a family picnic, I would calmly think to myself, ‘Oh! It’s just my period, this too shall pass!’, take a deep breath and go about my day.

But nope. Every time, every single time, I’m shocked. And, because I love to be validated and surrounded, I will share that I’ve been told by several other brilliant women, that this happens to them too. I wonder if it’s because we’re so busy living fabulous lives, that we just don’t hold this nastiness front and center. Yes, yes—that must be it.

Happy endings

And this is the good news. Every month, after the disaster—comes a flood of relief. My body is beautiful and strong and my clothes do fit. My life is happy and sweet and I can see good coming at me from every view.

Just like the crap that hits with the certainty of taxes or, you know, death. So does the relief and reality of the fact that everything is really okay. That there was a reason. That it was just mother nature at work.

Now. How in the hell does this have anything to do with writing, arting and creating?

It applies to the moments when instead of your clothes not fitting, your chair doesn’t fit and neither do your fingers on your keyboard. The moments when you don’t know why you bother—because no one is reading, because you think your work sucks, because you won’t ever make a living from it.

I think there’s a writers equivalent of getting your period. It’s that aha! moment when we realize we were tired or needed an hour away from the computer or a good talk with a friend or a roll-around with a lover or a good meal or 12 hours of sleep. The writers’ equivalent is whatever it is that hits us with the realization that all is not lost, that this is the way it goes—that we stumble into holes on a regular basis and often sit at the bottom of them staring at the dark muck…before inevitably pulling ourselves up and out.

The writer’s equivalent of the period is that we always survive, we always find the strength to come back to center, back to good, back to okay. It may not be once a month, but it’s always there.

It’s that as uncomfortable and messy as it might be, it’s a vital part of the creation process. We have it in us. Period.

Even when we forget.

Image credit: dahlstroms

Join the discussion 23 Comments

  • Jason says:

    One Word: Biorhythms. I used to be able to chart mine to peak my max power lifts to a “T”. Guys, gals, everything in between have cycles that vary to the individual. Cross yours with UR “cycle” and U might find why some seems more extreme than others. Just my two bits (inflation from two cents)

  • Alisa Bowman says:

    I’m having my writer’s period today (in case that wasn’t clear, it’s NOT the kind that requires a tampon). I meditated. I walked. I thought about drinking 8 cups of coffee. Then I read this. You didn’t fix me perse, but you made me feel normal and better and understood and comforted by the fact that I probably won’t wake up and feel like this tomorrow.
    .-= Alisa Bowman´s last blog ..The Gore Effect =-.

  • Dina Lyons says:

    I often thought I should remember to put mine in my schedule, because wouldn’t you know it, I think I have more production errors at “that time of the month.” Thanks for making me realize it’s okay (and that maybe I should hire a production person occasionally)

  • Love this, and totally agree that man or woman, we all have cycles, and we all have our ups and downs. I just crawled my way out of my “bloggers period” and feel as if I am on top of the world again.
    Thanks for the reminder that we are all there sometimes, and it is bound to get better.

  • Aaron Pogue says:

    I go through precisely the same thing, with minor depressive cycles that have nothing to do with reproductive systems. And I absolutely understand the frustration at not recognizing it.

    The perspective changes everything, though. You don’t even have to be through with the suffering — you just have to recognize the suffering for what it is, and then you know it’s over. I can’t count how many times I’ve said that to other people wrestling with depression.

    I don’t think I’ve ever thought to say it to writers, though. You’re spot on, and this is a profoundly therapeutic message you’ve shared. Artists’ lives everywhere will be a little bit better now, because you’re…well, whatever is opposite of shy.

    Thanks for sharing.
    .-= Aaron Pogue´s last blog ..A Story Worth Telling =-.

  • jules says:

    Love it, Julie!

    I am finally coming to terms with this whole process, the cyclical nature of it all, the repeating lessons and moods and productivity.

    It’s amazing how we can forget!
    .-= jules´s last blog ..There is No “There” There. =-.

  • Susan Greene says:

    I have a different cycle that I go through with every new copywriting project. It has nothing to do with periods, but it’s nearly as predictable.

    Before I start writing the copy, I first have a major bout of panic and insecurity. I doubt whether I’m capable of doing the assignment. I question whether I have any creativity. I freak out about the impending deadline. I worry that my client will feel he didn’t get his money’s worth.

    Then I start researching and writing, and soon the piece takes shape. The project gets done, and I realize I’ve done one heckuva job.

    Even though I know this is going to happen with each new project, I can’t seem to avoid that panicked stage of self doubt. If only there were Midol for “work-related periods.”

  • The worst is when you think not even the family pet likes you.

    Totally like the creative process.

  • Dave Doolin says:

    I always know when the screams start: “NO I AM NOT PMSING GODDAMMIT.”

    PMSing for sure. All good.
    .-= Dave Doolin´s last blog ..Quick note on Twitter and followers… (drama-free zone) =-.

  • This is freaking brilliant!! BRILLIANT!
    .-= Gini Dietrich´s last blog ..#FollowFriday: Jon Buscall =-.

  • Andi says:

    OMG, it is SO true, I am completely surprised by it every single month!
    .-= Andi´s last blog ..French Friday: Beyond Paris – Life in Department Forty-Four: Nantes’ Wide Open Spirit in Old Brittany =-.

  • Srinivas Rao says:

    Definitely an interesting take on the creative process. I myself go through a similar thing where I don’t have shi##$ to write about or go through a lack of creativity. It’s usually driven by surf conditions. If the surf sucks, my writing does too.
    .-= Srinivas Rao´s last blog ..Dave Doolin on The Right Way to Publish Your Blog Post, Build Relationships with Readers, and The Blog Post Engineering Ebook (RT to win a copy) =-.

  • Res says:

    So the “writer’s period” would explain the last two weeks of blankly staring at the first draft of my novel and wondering why I even bothered?!
    This post was great, thanks!
    .-= Res´s last blog ..Don’t Know Just What To Do With Myself =-.

  • Van says:

    Had to let you know you’re my current #1 writing muse. I’m tasked with writing SEO and some boring finance copywriting fun right now and I think I’ve forgotten how to write entertaining pieces with voice and personality after about a year of the drab finance writing. I can’t lose the gift of natural witty entertaining writing forever, I can’t let it get burried under the bland laquered veneer of nice-ness. Help your fellow writer- what’s your muse? What keeps you writing every day from the heart, other than your innate need to do it?

    AND as a female of cource I relate to and love this blog post. You’re not alone, every month I feel the slight aches and pains that signal my period (I don’t get moody or bloated, I just get pains. I’m not sure which is worse) and then I’m shocked when the flow begins. The joys of womanhood!

    Oh, if you haven’t seen a smart little horror film named “Grace” I highly recommend it. It’s about the HORRORS of human nature and the female machine, how all these hormones and cycles are profoundly mysterious in a creepy way. It certainly reflects MY dark perspective on the “miracle” of childbirth. Very though provoking, this post made me think of it.

  • Van says:

    Lots of typos in that, I’ll blame in on the writer’s period and blurry lack of sleep vision. shsuinlgg///
    .-= Van´s last blog ..Merry Mushrooms and Other Thrift Fun =-.

    • Julie Roads says:

      Honestly, my muse is that innate need. Writing makes me feel better. I ‘spose my emotions are my muse too…but that’s all connected.

      Sadly, I can not watch horror films. Allergic. Sounds interesting though!

  • lynn says:

    Yes, yes.

    I used to be continually astonished when the answer to my irritability came with a spot of blood on the TP.

    I too forgot the cycle, the predictability. I forget it with my seasonal depression–my husband helps me remember that THIS is how it was last year, and I made it through. There’s a relief in an outsider reminding you of how it is. And there’s that same cycle in my writing, where I have nothing to say, nothing, and more of nothing, and everything feels uncomfortable and bunchy and then, the dam bursts. And I can write again.

    I freak out when I can’t write, especially at my job where I have to write on regular deadlines.

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