separation anxiety

Creating is like parenting. We bring something into the world, something we adore, cherish, and have high hopes for. And then, for our mutual health, we must let it go.

Creating something out of thin air and imagination is a miracle. That we do it again and again makes us artists and virtuosos. The process begins in holy alchemy, but where does it end? As the creation process moves toward completion, our work separates from us until it can stand on its own, even when we’re not around.

What you’ve written (or painted, or sewn, or composed, or choreographed, or filmed) is separate from you. It wants to have a life of its own. But it won’t and can’t actually fulfill its potential unless you allow that excised piece of you to be finished, to venture out without you hovering and tweaking and badgering and fixing its hair all the time.

I’ve seen this numerous times in my work with writers and creators, this holding on tight past the time for letting go, past the time when more fixing starts to diminish the work. At that point, the parent has become dependent on the child. The energy reverses and the creator begins to suck the life from the creation.

I think this happens because we love our creations so much and are so proud of them, and buoyed and charmed and thrilled by what we (me! I! myself!) have done that we forget our original intent for giving birth. We become distracted from our priorities.

It helps to know what your creative purpose is for a project. Is it to get the book finished so you can share your vision with others? Is it to work through the anger? Is it to bring beauty before your own eyes or music to your own ears? Is it all or none of the above? Knowing your purpose helps you recognize the point where the energy shifts, where the flow of nutrients in the umbilicus reverses.

When expansion or perfection overstay their welcome, taunting with false promises of alternate futures that proliferate without end, it’s time to cut the cord.

Parenting and creating are not for wimps.

The dismount is key. Do it however you can, but do it. Plan it as a series of steps, or do it all at once, like ripping off a Band-Aid. Allow yourself to forget finesse. Forgive yourself for all the errors and omissions.

Put your contact info on your creation so it can send you postcards about its travels. Then wave and move on. Turn your focus to the next new creation waiting eagerly for your attention.

5 comments to separation anxiety

  • What a lovely reminder. My creations are not me, they are of me, but not mine to hyper-control or cling to or lock up. Just like my children. The creations part is the one that’s harder for me to remember, funnily enough. But it’s so much better when my writing, my paintings, my whatever are allowed to take on a life of their own.

    • Tcha! The little tykes. They WILL have a life of their own.

      I remember a painter I was taking painting lessons from talking to me about this decades ago. I was telling her how I didn’t think I could sell anything I made because I loved it so much. She (accomplished professional that she was) shrugged and said, “Well, when you know you can always make more, it’s easier to let them go.”

      I loved that. It’s helped me a lot since then.

  • A timely reminder as I work on commissioned paintings – remember their purpose, and where they are going… and let them go…
    Thank you for expressing this so well.

  • Beautifully said Grace..

  • […] you willing to end your story? Are you willing to let it go? If not, what needs to be dealt with or addressed so that you become willing, even if what you need […]