After working with passionate intensity for seven years, circumstances so conspired in late 2015 that overnight I found myself in a creative pause. Well, a creative full stop actually. I felt shocked and was spinning in free fall, all hopes of my PhD evaporating. I write this nearly three years later with my fledgling PhD still stored in boxes somewhere in the shed. I have no clear picture of if or when it might be unpacked!
On reflection I see I have used a number of tactics to come to terms with this convulsive and unwelcome change …… for what it is worth.
- Try to be comfortable with change itself and the fear that often comes with it. I tell myself, this is change and I am having it!
- Understand that in any creative process, large or small, not knowing is often the best part - even though it may not feel like it at the time. The new can only flow in when a space has been made for it.
- Keep busy! Do not allow unhelpful thoughts to take hold, get up and move, do something, anything. Move the body! I have found this to be the best tactic imaginable even though at times I felt I was merely going through the motions and still do sometimes.
- Let go of an outcome! While keeping busy and not knowing where you are going or how, at the same time, if you can, surrender to the process itself and allow whatever will be, be. Take it as it comes. Creative inspiration can strike at any time, frequently when we least expect it.
- Take care of yourself! Rest, eat good food, get good sleep, exercise and do nice things for yourself as often as you feel like it. Let go of anyone who, or anything that does not uplift the spirit. Keep life simple as you navigate the fog.
- Keep learning! Study something else. Somehow, through my dimly lit process, I have begun a garden from scratch, completed a year-long Permaculture Course and I am currently enrolled in a Summer School Science Unit (my first), that explores the Science of Gardening! Even though I feel quite bewildered frequently, as on the surface, this has almost nothing to do with my PhD, over time I have come to love and value my time outside in the garden. It is therapeutic.
I have made new friends and established new networks, all garden related and I am finding it rich and rewarding. I have joined two gardening groups and from my modest garden I have sold produce at the market and to cafe’s, supplied fruit and vegetables to many friends and neighbours, shared and swapped with others. Who knows where it will take me in my artistic life, if and when it starts up again, PhD or no PhD.
Of course, everyone deals with shock and change in different ways. Perhaps my experience may interest some of you if you ever find yourself in a similar situation.