Achtung! The Hidden Health Risks of Creative Pursuit

The intent of this quest was to pursue creativity. Tired of time spent on things that weren’t fulfilling, I decided it would be writing or bust.


But beginning meant releasing things from myself I hadn’t accessed before. From where would come the words to share? From where the confidence to do so?


In searching, finding, and opening these parts of me, other things seem to have escaped, too. Insecurities. Dreams. Curiosities. Rumbling, resounding echoes that have beckoned since beginning this journey seem to originate in the realm of my relationship with relationships.


Relationships—I have been knocking them down, slogging my way through shams, and allowing them to run a parallel path, it seems, to the trajectory of this year’s creative pursuits.

And always what seems to be initially real morphs into a final illusion.

Still, something remains when it’s all over: me, but changed.

a single domino lying on pavement

There is a mystery here:

How are these parallel tracks bound—the struggling writer and the struggling partner? Instinct says it’s no coincidence that the year has tested these two roles so strongly.

Why is my reclusive year of writing so punctuated, so punctured, with messy, foolish relationships? What is the lesson? Surely it parades before me in broad daylight, a scotoma I’m unwilling (or unable) to see.

So, I’m writing, here, to you. Could exposure of me lead to exposure of it, this lesson I’m sloppily attempting to teach myself?

An overview of the past year shows great solitude pockmarked with mostly unhealthy relationships. Pseudo-solitudes. Existing with someone without being seen.

Is there a causal relationship between those men who came along and the isolation I’d imposed upon myself? In laying my creative pursuits bare, attempting to oust the walls of vulnerability, did I accidentally demolish needed emotional safeguards as well?

A creative antibiotic that killed the bad as well as the good?

I just spent a week in Rome for the wedding of one of my best friends. He, obviously occupied with things like getting married, couldn’t guide me through introductions, so socially I had to navigate alone.

And I loved it. And I loved the people. And I felt healthy and strong and pleasantly worn out from laughter.

group photo of me and friends standing on the spanish steps in rome italy

I’m so happy I’m pretending to be a cheerleader

I laughed more last week than I’ve laughed this entire year, and that truth sounds a warning across my brain.

Maybe I’ve been after the wrong type of fuel. The wrong environment. The wrong isolation. Maybe, in a myopic pursuit of creative focus, excess separation weakened my sense of self, thus my ability to take care of said self.

We are, after all, social creatures. (At least that’s what my shrink always told me.)

In my cloistered life I’ve paid penance to unasking gods; now, after coming back from Italy sated by the idea that I might be better off belonging somewhere, I wonder if I should find a home, a community.

I love the quest, but I don’t have to be Lancelot afoot. In seeking whatever I mean by creative freedom, I don’t have to constantly hack my way through the obstacles and intricacies of [mildly] ascetic living.

Whatever I’m seeking to bring out of myself and into the world is, I assume, within me already. It’s not out there. Maybe I’m getting tired of looking out stangers’ windows, of waiting for planes, of trying (half-heartedly) to make friends in new places.

Perhaps it’s to what I already have and know and love that I should return after more than ten years away. Perhaps going home isn’t giving up. Perhaps its creation in a room of its own.


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