In this chapter, Cameron talks about blocks -- the whats, whys and hows. She talks about the usuals -- food, work, and sex -- and the less recognized:
For others, an obsession with painful love places creative choice outside their hands. Reaching for the painful thought, they become instant victims rather than feel their own considerable power.
I've been in that place. Though I must observe -- it provides lots of material. This is a justified complaint of those who are not writers against those of us who are: everything is material.
. . . note carefully that food, work, and sex are all good in themselves. It is the abuse of them that makes them creativity issues.
Interestingly, to me, she doesn't mention shopping in this chapter. Or cigarettes, though I suppose they fall into the drug category. When I was working and had disposable income, nothing would soothe me better than a cruise through the antique shops, followed by a nice smoke and a lazy -- one might almost say creative -- process of deciding where to place the new treasure(s). Oh, for the good old days...
As we become aware of our blocking devices -- food, busyness, alcohol, sex, other drugs -- we can feel our U-turns as we make them. The blocks will no longer work effectively. Over time, we will try -- perhaps slowly at first and erratically -- to ride out the anxiety and see where we emerge. Anxiety is fuel. We can use it to write with, paint with, work with. [emphasis mine]
Oh, yes. Sit with it. So easily said; done with such difficulty.
Cameron says a lot about workaholism, which I want to talk about, too.
In creative recovery, it is far easier to get people to do the extra work of the morning pages than it is to get them to do the assigned play of an artist date. Play can make a workaholic very nervous. Fun is scary . . . Fun leads to creativity. It leads to rebellion. It leads to feeling your own power, and that is scary.
I confess that I've not done most of the artist dates. I could try to justify that. But I won't.
Most importantly, to me:
There is a difference between zestful work toward a cherished goal and workaholism . . . For a workaholic, work is synonymous with worth, and so we are hesitant to jettison any part of it.
A word to all the workaholics out there: you think you can work forever. Stamina, determination, discipline -- they will carry you through anything. And maybe they will.
But maybe they won't. And if, like me, a day comes that you can no longer work -- you can no longer be your job -- good luck to you. Even though I had been writing, seriously writing, for a decade before I got sick, my self-worth -- my identity -- was completely tied to my work. My job work. My professional, productive self. And this made coping with, adjusting to, being ill so much harder. This illness is the one thing that all those stubborn work world skills cannot manage. In fact, they make it worse.
So my advice to you is just stop it right now. Don't just develop a hobby in anticipation of retirement, or to broaden your skills set -- find something in addition to your job to feed you, to challenge you, to push you to your edge, wherever that may be. Don't wait. And no, don't wait for things to lighten up at work.
Cameron also writes about Drought, and I love this line: A drought is a tearless time of grief.