A creative pursuit can help when life is difficult. Putting the hands to work on a satisfying project can set the mind free from destructive thoughts and flood your body with “feel good” de-stressing neuropeptides that we call endorphins.
I am a jewelry maker. I stumbled on to this occupation when the economy faltered in 2008 and my freelance writing contracts dried up. It wasn’t just the economy though. I’d been in a weak place emotionally and I was totally burned out on writing about things I didn’t care about. And I was constantly writing. It seems like everywhere I went with the kids, I had to bring my laptop and try to get another article finished. I wish I’d been more present with them as they were growing. But that is what it is. It’s easy to look back on my weaknesses and failures and see where I went wrong. It’s important to remember that I was doing the best I could at the time.
The point is that I was broken as a writer. I never wrote creatively, only just tried to pump out enough words to satisfy what the publisher was asking of me. When I started making jewelry, it opened up a whole new non-verbal world of creativity and satisfaction. I could go to what was literally my happy place, a makeshift studio in the garage, and bend metal, forming it into body adornments that people gave me money to make for them. Every time I sold a made-to-order ring, it was another little affirmation, a little hug, a little red heart floating through cyberspace from them to me, telling me in some abstract way that I was loved.
I could lose myself in the making. It took me away from the things that were bothering me at the time and gave my brain a rest from trying to figure all of that out as I figured out new designs, or taught myself how to resize a ring or get a seam straight or the best way to get a gemstone set into a bezel. Even now, six and a half years later, I find that when I am feeling the free-floating stress of life, I can go into my studio (it’s no longer in the garage and I have my very own space to retreat into) and escape for a while.
Writing about things that matter to me is its own kind of healing. Now, I can dive down into the words to make discoveries about life and love. But when the words were not there because the dam of pain and burnout was holding them all back, ring-making was a soothing first aid.
If you’re hurting and you can’t make the words flow, try some other creative pursuit and see if it helps in the healing process.
Photo courtesy of Todd Quackenbush