Tuesday, May 29, 2012


I'm there again.

In limbo.

It's the part of the creative cycle where I've just finished a massive, seemingly impossible undertaking. I've forsaken sleep, trashed my diet, and ignored all the people I care about. I haven't bathed, and my toenails are chipped. I am barely functional. But by God, I've crossed the finish line, and it's time to celebrate!

Or is it?

Eh. Not really.

If you're an artist, you're probably familiar with this time, this place. This limbo. You work so hard for it, but when you get here, you don't feel the relief and triumph you've been dreaming of, just the fumbling lack of a goal. You're swamped with the feeling that you should be doing something else, starting over again. That you need a purpose.

Within two hours of finishing my draft and sending it off to my agent, I feel lost, adrift, and, honestly, a little smelly. I'm pretty sure I bathed recently. Wait, what day is it? And why don't we have any groceries?

It's easy to forget that victory isn't always satisfying. That there is no finish line. That reaching your destination doesn't mean you've completed the journey. It's just another check mark, just another nod of the head and email sent, and then it's back to life as normal. And there is no real normal, because everything we do is one of these cycles, unless we go all zen and live in the moment, which is mighty impractical most of the time if you don't want to live in a cardboard box down by the river.

I'll never forget when I was around 9, and my mom told me that my new job was to do the family laundry ever Saturday morning while watching cartoons. It felt good, to have a grown-up responsibility. I gathered it, sorted it, washed and dried and folded it, all while enjoy Dunkin' Donuts and The Shirt Tales. It was done, and I stood over the mounds of fluffy cloth proudly, savoring my triumph.

Then my dad walked in, threw a wad of sweaty clothes in the empty hamper, and grabbed a new shirt off the bottom of the stack, thereby undoing half of my work. And I deflated.

That was the moment that I realized the laundry would never really be "done".

I've hated laundry ever since.

Also yard work, cooking, dishes, vacuuming, and paying bills.

But I write for the same reason I do laundry: because I have to.

Because while I'm in the midst of the crazed work, I look forward to the victory. And when I'm in the limbo following the victory, I look forward to when the next idea takes hold and grips me with possibility. It's all about the hope, the passion, the striving that makes me forget about the limbo.

I love the cycle because it tells me I'm alive. Because it keeps me awake and hungry.

But I hate the cycle because it never ends, and I can only see that clearly when I'm in the limbo.

The cycle is cruel, and the cycle is beautiful.

Long live the cycle!



Henri B. said...

I'm not an artist but I had that same feeling after I was accepted to grad school. I'd spent the last few years completely focused on that goal to the point that I forgot that the goal was the beginning of something else. I didn't have to do all the things I used to roll right into after the last rejection letter would come in and I was at a loss on what to do next. Now I'm trying to enjoy the lull but it took quite a bit of adjustment.

delilah s. dawson said...

I... was rejected from grad school. But my husband went through something similar after his dissertation. Human beings are so weird.

Pinafores and Pinwheels said...

If you are going to need a beta reader for this book, you know where to find me! ;)

Lexi H said...

Can I please have some limbo? I have lists of things to do, if I can only get them done. From here limbo looks like bliss =) Hope you can enjoy yours, even a little.