You know how it starts. It’s something stupid.
You tear your nail way down by the nail bed and it throbs. FOR DAYS.
You shrug it off, you do your thing, you go to work, you keep on moving forward.
Then a customer throws a tantrum and you want to scream at them but you don’t. Oh, you walk around all day with a knot in your stomach and clenched fists (exacerbating the throbbing nail pain) but you need a paycheck so you keep your mouth shut (or at least as close as your mouth ever comes to staying shut).
Then you end up with a stray shard of glass in your hand that the doctor can’t find so it just stays there and festers. It hurts. You’re getting cranky.
And days go by and days go by and your nail grows back and the client begrudgingly agrees to pay the bill and your hand is sore with a hard bump that isn’t going anywhere.
And your pants are snug. Why the hell are these pants snug all of a sudden????
You look down at the scale. THAT’s why. Clearly exercise is a complete waste of time and effort.
So now you’re feeling fat and hopeless and even crankier and your hand still hurts and the hand specialist says you can wait for the glass to expel itself or he can schedule you for outpatient surgery. So you wait.
And in between all this? You’re smiling, you’re laughing, you’re playing with your new iPad, your family visits and things are pretty good. The bad things don’t come in a continuous wave, at least not at first. They still let you come up for air and take a deep breath for a moment or two.
Then you have a lunch meeting with your boss. No, you DON’T want to talk about it.
And between the throbbing hand, the clamoring clients, the rogue glass shard, the asshat bathroom scale and the bills, your creative energy hits zero. Who the hell can write a journal entry feeling like this? Where’s the motivation to work up a fascinating query letter that will hook a magazine editor? Who wants to read that boring-ass novel you wrote in November and finally make some edits to it? Maybe tomorrow. Or next week.
And money is tight and love is sad and boys are stupid and for god’s sake are these pants snug, too??????
Then you break another nail.
Now you’re pissed. So you have a glass of wine and you take a pair of tweezers and without even attempting to numb your hand, you grab that shard of glass and PULL. And it’s out. And immediately your hand hurts less.
But everything else still sucks—your weight, your bank account, your job, and especially that damned Volkswagen-sized spider that is stalking you in your own house.
So you cry.
And cry and cry. And maybe tweet stupid, angry, slightly irrational comments on Twitter.
Then people who love you tell you they do, maybe not in words, but in some way that makes you feel better.
That’s when you do the one thing you should have been doing all along but you didn’t think you had the inspiration to do.
You pick up the pen, you open the notebook and you scheme and dream and plan and plot.
You make a list of the only foods you are going to eat until your pants loosen again. You write down all the magazines and web sites you think might be interested in the article topics that seem to be pouring from your pen (even if they seem slanted toward mundane subject matter like glass shards and dealing with clients and how to make extra money when you have a full-time job). You pull out the book you bought ages ago on how to write a non-fiction book proposal and start reading. You tweet the link to your latest blog post and ask people to retweet it if they like it.
You’re back, baby! Because when the meltdown is happening, it slows your pace, it weakens your resolve, it isolates you from things you care about and forces you to just get by, doing what you must to get through the day.
But when the meltdown is over, the ideas flood in, most of them in reaction to the things that brought you down, making the bad stuff worthwhile and letting you turn it around into creative inspiration.
Oh great! I just broke another nail!