For most of my life, I experienced a constant, bubbling cauldron of creativity within me. For decades, I was a prolific writer, author, talk show host, radio producer and all-around communicator who was never at a loss for great, interesting ideas—in fact, I usually had far more than I could realize at any one given time.
Creativity often woke me up at night with a new idea; we’d hang out in the wee hours, fleshing out a vision when it was quiet and the night was full. Our relationship was intimate and passionate. Creativity embodied that rare combination you search for in a lover—reliability and excitement. I could always count on her to arouse me, to awaken me, to leave me feeling satiated and happy. Together, we produced literary and auditory babies that we launched out in the world. And like parents everywhere, we watched them grow and flourish with pride.
In the last decade, however, our relationship has grown flat. The daily demands of family life, the pressures of being a breadwinner, and the brain-numbing aftermath of chemotherapy severed my relationship to my first love. Where there used to be an exciting cauldron of ideas, there is only empty space, and it isn’t the kind that feels fertile with possibility. When I sit down to write, a blank, reluctant page usually stares back at me. I can still go through the motions because I’ve have long years of practice, but I’m rarely excited about what I write. None of my words gain anything resembling traction; I don’t have many ideas, I don’t care about the ideas I do have, and I don’t have the energy or desire to follow through. People tell me that writers often have a long, dry spell when they are gestating a new idea, but I simply feel barren, not pregnant with possibility. And so I’ve grieved the loss of this relationship. Perhaps, I’ve had to tell myself, that part of my life is over.
But now my children are growing up—Eli is a senior in high school and Lizzy is a freshman—and the great daily focus to which I’ve devoted the last 20 years is coming to an end. As I anticipate the empty nest, I’ve been wondering what exactly might be next for me. And I have been taking risks and branching out.
In the past year, I’ve joined the Santa Cruz Community Choir and am taking singing lessons. I’ve become a writing student again—something I think is essential for every teacher. I love going to my writing class; it’s a great relief to “not have to hold the space,” to be able to write for my own exploration and pleasure in an environment where writing is expected and nurtured. And in the course of that writing, some new threads have been emerging. After 20+ years of being a professional writer, I’m playing with fiction—inventing shit—and I’m having a ball.
Just this past week, during our family staycation, my daughter and I spent a long day creating an photo album online of her bat mitzvah pictures, taken last June. I was having so much fun that I created two other specialty albums—one for my mother and one for Lizzy’s grandfather in Israel who was unable to attend. I couldn’t believe how much fun it was to lose track of time and to get immersed in the aesthetics of a project again. Had it been, what, years? And then a few days later, I discovered an online cookbook program and decided to start a family cookbook project, complete with family stories about food.
I don’t know if it has to do with being three years post-chemo, my willingness to take some new risks, or simply taking time off from work without a plan, but I’ve had been deeply enjoying this little blossoming of creativity I thought I had lost forever.
Will it last? I don’t think that’s even the point. The point is that a relationship I thought was over is lying in wait, and in this new year, I’m going to do everything I can to nourish it and make it blossom again.