Marital separation. Death. Personal injury or illness. Loss of employment.
Some examples of the most stressful events you can experience in life. These periods demand our time and energy, emotional and mental, and creative endeavours can fall pretty low on the scale of priorities. But how important is it to continue doing these things during stressful times?
Let me tell you about the twelve months of my life. If job loss, relocation and personal injury make up some of the top stress factors, we’ve had them all this year. My fiance Greg has been off work since February with a back injury. In May, I left my job of four years to become a Travel Sales Consultant, a career I had been interested to explore for quite a few years. At the time we were living near Beenleigh, halfway between Brisbane and the Gold Coast. In August we decided to relocate to the Gold Coast, so that I could be closer to work and Greg to job opportunities when he returned to work.
However, being a Travel Sales Consultant proved to be a very different job to what I had expected. While I loved talking about the different destinations with clients, it was first and foremost a sales role, and involved far more stress and pressure than I was prepared for. I was also struggling with the workload; I couldn’t get enough quotes out to generate the commission I needed to hit my targets, that were increasing every month. The end of my four month probationary period was nearing, and I was facing dismissal if I couldn’t meet my target in September. To save dismissal on my employment record, I handed in my resignation. I was shattered.
So suddenly I found myself in the less than desirable position of unemployment. Here we were, Greg slowly recovering from two major surgeries, and me, jobless. From working full-time, I was now spending normal working hours job searching, and there is only so much of that you can bear before you either run out of suitable jobs to apply for, or your brain turns to complete mush from the monotony.
Finding a job was my number one priority, and I felt guilty about spending any of my waking hours on my writing practice. The last time I was unemployed I felt I hadn’t prioritised job seeking enough at first, ignoring the seriousness of the situation until my savings were depleted, which had caused a lot of stress. I didn’t want to find myself in that position again.
I am so lucky to have a wonderful family who have offered much support during this difficult time. We are certainly not destitute, and never will be. I’m sure other people have faced similar situations without the fallback of supportive family, and for this I am indescribably grateful. Perhaps others who are not as fortunate as I simply do not have the luxury to put even a few minutes aside for their creative endeavours during hard times. Everyone’s situations are different; some difficult situations are temporary, some lifelong. But perhaps the level of priority a creative practice holds in one’s is not dictated by their life situation at all, but their perception of that situation.
Although job seeking has become a priority in my life, my passion for indulging in the written word has not dimmed. It was indifferent to my state of unemployment; it still commanded as much attention as before. Not only do I seek to do something stimulating in and around looking for a new job, but my creative practice has served greatly as a stress reliever. Not only now, but throughout my entire life. Reeling from bullies and debilitating learning difficulties, I took much strength in losing myself in writing and drawing after school. It was something I could do around everything I couldn’t. It was, and still is, an escape from the challenges I am facing on a daily basis. It is purely an indulgence of joy. When days are tougher than others, I can look forward to working on my novel-in-progress.
From Monday to Friday, I get up in the morning at the same time. I shower, wash my face and have breakfast, with the same urgency as when I was working. Sometimes I have fifteen jobs to apply for, and it will take the best part of the day to get through them. Other days, I will only have a few to do, and the afternoon is mine to spend on my creative projects, whether it be actual writing or working on the business side of my authorship. Whatever time I finish job hunting, I adjust the starting time of my creative work, but it still holds an important place in my daily schedule. This extra time I have on my hands has also given me the chance to make a start on some sizabe tasks that have been on my long-time to-do list, that I struggled to find time for when working.
In my experience, it has been important for me to keep up my creative practice during this challenging period in my life. In a way, it has been less of a relieving past time than a necessity for my sanity. A source of fuel for my ability to stay positive and hopeful.
I acknowledge that everyone’s personal situation is different. I also believe that everyone creates their own stories about their lives. If you truly want to, you can still find time to dedicate to your creative practice, even if it is only a few minutes a day. And I assure you that holding your creative practice to the same level of importance as your obligations will bring a sense of normality to your life. It will bring you joy and rejuvination. Value this time, because it is just as important as your obligations. A creative practice may seem frivolous during serious periods in one’s life, but when you consider what these practices can do for your own wellbeing, you can see how it ca be just as important. And you must look after yourself first and foremost before you can give your energy to the world.
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