As creatives, we are often broken, and we are often accutely aware of our own flaws. Often, its what drives us to create. But you don’t often hear creatives admit it out loud in those terms.
Instead, we play it off as quirks, or insecurity, or being crazy. We go out of our way to avoid calling ourselves broken, but it is so disgustingly liberating and reassuring to do so.
I am broken. Severely.
Where to start?
Am I physically broken? Yes. I have a pair of bad knees, a bad back, bad shoulders, and pre-arthritis in my hands. I walk around in severe pain basically all the time. So yes, I am physically broken.
Am I emotionally broken? Very much so, yes. I am emotionally selfish, and I don’t enjoy other people. I lack an emotional availability for things I don’t care about. I can be incredibly self-destructive, and I don’t appreciate the advantages I’ve had.
I am a severely broken human being, and saying it out loud was my first step to recovery.
I’ve been taking a lot of walks recently. Long, rambling walks, often for no other reason than to get out of the house.
I swear I’m actually 70.
I like two things about long, rambling walks, and neither of them are the exercise. I like the way it clears my mind, allowing me to focus on individual creative ideas and let external stimuli wash over me.
The other, more important, aspect of long, rambling walks is the ideas of walking one more step. I’ve walked 23 miles in the last 9 days, which is remarkable to me considering the state of my body.
Walking away from home forces you to come back. It gives you no other choice but to come back, no matter how far away you are, no matter how exhausted you are or painful it is.
You have to get home, and you have to use your feet.
Its not a coincidence that my best creative work has occurred in the last 9 days, either. Not only have I had a lot of time to consider my work, but I’ve had an opportunity to confront a portion of my brokenness and begin to overcome it.
I haven’t written extensively about my divorce. This has been on purpose. I know what happened, I know what didn’t happen, and that’s enough for me.
But I’ve been thinking a lot about emotional availability and my own failings in this particular area. Whether or not my ex-wife cheated on me is irrelevant (she did), and whether or not I cheated on her is irrelevant (I didn’t).
What matters in this particular context is that I was a shitty husband when it came to being emotionally supportive.
One of my many dysfunctions is a difficulty caring about things that other people care about, and try as she might, she could not get me to care about marching band. Try as I might, I could not get her to care about a lot of things that were important to me, but that’s her dysfunction and it isn’t important.
I realized that my problem stemmed from an interest deficiency. I just wasn’t interested in things. I took a kind of sick pride in not reading things, in not giving a shit about stuff.
My creative work suffered. Like you wouldn’t believe. I faked it for years, but there was no blood going to it at all. It wasn’t until I got divorced that I found a solution.
I got interested in stuff. I got interested in people.
I got interested in me.
And the blood started getting to the work. I’m not just reading books on purpose, I’m writing one. I’m getting better.
Recognizing that we are broken isn’t the hard part; its proactively taking the necessary steps to get better.
I may be broken, and I may always be broken, but I don’t have to stop working on it. I’m going to keep walking too far, I’m going to continue being interested, and I’m going to keep searching for more solutions.
Not just because its the root of good creative work, but because its the root of being a functional human being.