Creative Resilience

Life can be crappy. Not only does it throw curveballs, sometimes it throws cricket balls right at your face. Bang! When you’re not even looking.

What I like about the idea of resilience is that you don’t have to be born with it. It’s not like my inability to ever be tall. I will never be tall. I can work on batting those cricket balls.

There are lots of definitions of resilience – most often the ability to bounce back – but I also think it is about living with loss and grief. Sometimes it is about finding a new normal and it can be difficult.

What does that mean for creatives? Life gets in the way of writing but life is also my writing. All literature is about survival. All storytelling is about survival. Something bad happens and the protagonist has to survive, physically, emotionally, and/or psychologically.

It’s weird right, that storytelling is all about survival? Not a coincidence? Are we wired to tell and consume stories as a type of training to help us survive? Do stories gear us to be more resilient? Certainly telling our stories of grief and difficulty can help. My books are not about me but they contain the losses and lessons I have had to learn and that are a part of me.

I have figured out it takes some distance though. It’s been eight years and I think I might finally be able to write about the 2011 floods. I tried too early and I was still too angry and too fragile. By the end of the day, I was in a dark place. So, I went to bed and had a nice sleep. (The morning is wiser than the evening). I thought I had lost my optimism. I was devastated. Now I realise I lost my naivety.

There is another definition of resilience that I think applies to creative resilience. Resilience is the measure of how much you want something and how much you are willing and able to overcome obstacles to get it.

When you want to make art, write books, create games it requires persistence and fortitude and resilience in the face of rejection, criticism and people who don’t believe in you.

I sat with some talented people at Brisbane’s Oz Comic-Con last weekend and we talked about creative resilience and we all had out tips.

Julian Barr, historian, novelist and itinerant bard says:

There is nothing wrong with feeling hurt or downhearted by rejection. Just don’t set up camp there. The myth of the unassailable creative is just that, a myth. Stone cold rejection sucks. Just keep going. Give yourself time to feel the emotions and then move on.

Multiplatform storyteller and writer June Perkins says with lovely succinctness:

Write and create for the pure joy of it, without focusing on the final outcome and rejection of your work can never take that joy from you.  This can be true of anything not just writing.

Author and social welfare advocate Vacen Taylor always erudite says:

You have the power to change how you might interpret or react to a situation. While in discomfort of a situation, ask yourself this; am I adding to the momentum of the problem with my thoughts? Understand what emotional influence you are under at that time. If you find that your feelings are not satisfying an optimistic view, then begin reframing those thoughts. “I am willing to find something good about my situation.” When you understand you have the freedom to choose your thoughts, then you can strengthen your resilience. The more you practise this, the better you’ll get at doing it. Resilience prospers in every situation if you are willing to engage in this kind of reflection

My strategy for resilience is to build your self-awareness in whatever way you can; from your dreams, from yoga, from therapy, from your dog, from journaling. The better you understand yourself the better you will understand others and be able to relate to them. Digging deep is how I dig myself out of the hole that cricket ball knocks me into.

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