Using Loss to Expand Creativity

by Barbara Martin

in How to Tips, Motivation & Inspiration

According to Julia Cameron, we need to take the pain of artistic losses or failures and ask: “How does this loss serve me? Where does it point my work?” What if you could turn that pain into creative energy to recover and keep moving forward? What if you could use a painful creative loss to change the game in a positive direction?

Lemonade Blah Blah Blah

You’ve heard these future-oriented sayings before: make lemonade from lemons; every closed door opens a new window; look for the silver lining; from each ending comes a beginning… These are all versions of the same idea: turning a loss into a gain, turn a negative into a positive, find a new opportunity. If only it were so easy!

What Next: Change it Up

If we can look at a painful creative loss or failure or rejection of our creative work as a game-changer, and if we can harness the pain we feel and convert it into energy, then we can use that power and strength to fuel our creative work. It may help us to look in a new direction for our creative efforts and expand our self-image as a creative.

For example, if they won’t cast you in a film, make your own film and star in it. If you can’t get a literary agent or publisher to give you the time of day, become your own publisher. If you can’t get into a gallery, put on your own show. By converting the pain we feel at being rejected/criticized/denied/ignored/jeered into energy, we can propel ourselves into a whole new arena of creativity.

Skip the Why Me Syndrome

Cameron points out that when these painful things happen, what we need to do is to ask: “What next?” and “How?” rather than focus on the self pitying question of “Why me?” – use a loss, no matter how painful, as an opportunity and source of creative energy so you can keep moving forward. Be open to new directions, new avenues of expression, new ways to express your creativity.

Become a Hydra-Headed Hyphenate

This empowering attitude may lead you to become a multi-hyphenate or in Cameron’s words, to engage in “diverse, hydra-headed productivity.” Think actor-director-screenwriter-producer. Think writer-cartoonist-videographer. Think singer-dancer-songwriter-choreographer. Think painter-composer-musician. When one creative direction is blocked, find another creative direction or outlet to pursue … and do it!

Do it Now!

Cameron assures us in The Artist’s Way that creative types “who take this to heart survive and often prevail. The key here is action. Pain that is not used profitably quickly solidifies into a leaden heart, which makes any action difficult.” In this context, acknowledging the pain or loss is the first step to healing, the next step is to take action, even a small step, to support your inner artist and be able to look ahead with restored hope and excitement.

How Will You Create Now?

This is akin to getting back on the proverbial horse after a bad fall, but instead of hopping on a horse you roll out the goat wagon or fire up the rocket ship. Or something like that. Whatever.

So quit licking your wounds (Acknowledge the pain, yes; dwell on it, no!) and take action. What kind of hyphenate would you like to become? What small action could you take right now for your creativity – what small step right now, today? If not now, when?

Over 30 Reptitude Posts About the Artist’s Way Book and Program

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