A guest post to motivate, encourage, and inspire
Reclaiming Creativity after Infertility
Nothing has sabotaged my creativity as profoundly as secondary infertility. A writer-turned-mother, I’d already weathered the shock of new parenthood. The long, dry creative spell after my son’s birth, followed by desperate adapt-to-survive tactics: stealing moments to write downstairs while my baby napped and, later, in the Starbucks across from preschool.
Then, I was broadsided by infertility. Actually, it was more of a slow burn, at first, with hope (maybe this month I’ll get pregnant!) gradually diminishing, and grief (why me? why can’t I conceive a second time?!) steadily increasing with each failed cycle. I tried everything: diet, exercise, acupuncture, vitamin supplements, herbs, homeopathics, fertility drugs and escalating medical interventions. After three long years, with my feet up in stirrups too many times to count, my spouse and I finally reached the end of the road. The last cycle, the last vial of donor sperm, the last insemination – and still no baby. No sibling for our son. I’ve never in my life worked so hard to create something and come away with nothing.
When we finally shut the door and walked away for good, the grief hit hard. It wasn’t just the sense of loss that shattered me – the loss of the second child we’d so wanted, of the dream of the family we’d imagined for ourselves – but the acute sense of failure. My body had let me down; I couldn’t do this. This washed over everything.
In the past, I’ve always written my way out of tough times. My writing has been a trusted friend, a life preserver. This time, though, I couldn’t face the blank page. The irony didn’t escape me: here I was, a writing professor who had shepherded countless students through creative blocks, completely blocked myself. I didn’t trust that I could carry off another long-form project. After all, I couldn’t make a baby, even though I’d made one before. Maybe I just couldn’t create anymore, period. But there was more to it than that. In his book, Creativity for Life, psychologist and creativity coach Eric Maisel writes, “Continue to dream and continue to believe yourself special, for if you stop dreaming you lose your motivational energy, you love less, and you grow less creative.”
The problem was, I no longer dared to hope and dream. Once burnt, twice shy.
I read through Maisel’s chapters on blocks and resistance, and cried. The only thing I could do, other than giving up the literary life forever, was to write my way out. I needed to be gentle with myself and do what I’ve always reminded my students to do. Just show up at the page regularly and write, a word, a sentence, a page at a time. Don’t worry if it’s rough, just get something down. And this time around, don’t worry about your audience or if you’ll ever finish or get the piece produced. Just write. Fake it until you make it.
And that is how my latest play came into being, in spite of infertility.
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