Restless Soul Syndrome or It Doesn’t Have to Be Good

In the last five years, I’ve written five manuscripts…as well as lots of other things. If I’m not actively working on something, I get Restless Soul Syndrome. It’s a lot like Restless Leg Syndrome, but instead of legs, the creepy-crawly-pins-and-needles feeling is deep down in my gut.

I’ve suffered from this affliction most of my life. As a child, I combatted it by writing short stories and using my watercolours as I watched Bob Ross on PBS. As a teenager, I fought it with poetry and stream of consciousness essays. As a young adult, I round kicked it through theatre.

Even now, I try not to take more than a week off writing at a time. During those uncreative periods, I can be found wailing, “I AM UNTETHERED!” to the sky/my very tall spouse.

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Actual footage of me in the Cave of Rewrites and Revisions, which has been my home for the past couple of years. 

It’s not good for me. It’s not good for the darlings who live with me.

After reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and Real Artists Have Day Jobs by Sara Benincasa, I’ve come to realize something: I don’t have to have uncreative periods at all. And I don’t always have to be creating something “good.”

Desperate to create something but don’t have any ideas?

Elizabeth Gilbert encourages readers to court Inspiration like a lover; light a few candles, wear something flattering. Tell Inspiration you are ready. (I’m telling you this works. I wrote a manuscript I love in between chapters of Big Magic because Inspiration wouldn’t leave my side.)

Feeling the urge to be artistic but don’t think you have any talent?

Who cares?! Sara Benincasa would tell you to go to the art supply store, buy a bunch of on sale stuff, and make something terrible. It’s very freeing. I do this with my kids semi-regularly.

When I was sixteen or seventeen, I handed in one of my stream of consciousness essays as a high school English writing assignment because it was already written, sort of fit within the requirements of the assignment, and I did not apply myself as a student back then. The next day I was late for school and I had English first period. This was probably the only time I was late for school in my entire high school career (I’m pathologically punctual). In my absence, my English teacher, who resembled Ned Flanders, read my essay out loud to the class. I showed up after he’d already finished.

Gauging the expressions on the faces of my fellow students when I walked in, the collective opinion of my stream of consciousness essay was, “WELL, THAT WAS WEIRD.” Ned Flanders, however, thought it was wonderful. I did not think Ned was wonderful for reading my writing out loud to the class without my permission.

After that, the cat was out of the bag. Pre-Ned-reading-my-essay-out-loud, I was “secretly weird.” Ned’s betrayal had robbed me of the “secretly” part of my brand.

I have since forgiven Ned, for I now wave my freak flag proudly. Doing so makes me feel more like Me and helps satiate that Restless Soul Syndrome.

Let’s create some art today, friends. Who cares if it’s any good.

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Can you tell which of these was painted by a 6-year-old? Which was painted by an 8-year-old? Which was painted by a 37-year-old? Me neither. Who cares?! All three of us had fun.

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