I have a blog entry in my drafts waiting to be published, but publishing is on hold until a copyright issue is ironed out. In the meantime, I find myself antsy having nothing at the moment to publish. With nothing going on, that feeling of lack arises again. Writing fills me up temporarily. The thrill of publishing a moving piece fills me up too; and then that fullness passes, and the sense of lack returns.
Unfortunately, I am not alone. Perhaps it is this returning lack that keeps us productive. It is a cycle that goes on and on much as a drug addict must get that one more fix. It has been interesting to observe this cycle as writing this blog is the first productive thing I've ever done that relies solely on my own creative schedule rather than external parameters. When I hit that publish button there is an endorphin rush. If the piece I publish is particularly beautiful or lush with insight, I fantasize the reactions of readers who might in some small way find their lives a bit changed by reading it. You just never know. However, soon the rush passes--and the emptiness returns. This is the human condition.
I have noticed our society does everything possible to push this addictive cycle in creative people. Whenever a creative person comes on a talk show to plug something just finished--a movie, a book, or whatever--the host always asks expectantly, "So what are you working on next?" I have yet to hear an artist proudly admit, "Absolutely nothing." It would be refreshing to hear. It is okay to pause in our work. We really aren't of value only when producing, and as much as society thinks that an artist is obligated to produce for their public, this is simply not so. Their only obligation is to take care of their own well-being.
After Whitney Houston died, I spent quite a bit of time watching her video interviews and reading about her. There was one interview in which she said at some point she wanted to quit the business. The fame machine was eating her alive. She said when she used to sing in church she knew she was singing for God, but once she got into the business she lost sight of why she sang. She had become a mere commodity, and so she lost the joy of it. I wish she had gone back to her roots and turned her back on fame. Cat Stevens did just that. At the height of his career, he left the whole business scene. He was too sensitive for the fame machine and knew the self-destructive path it was leading him. I will always respect the courage he showed to do what he did. Few have the strength for it. Some might think such a move is foolish, but I think it shows a rare sanity to take care of one's well-being that way. Some things really are more important than money even if those who depend on your productivity for their bottomline tell you otherwise.
I bring up Whitney Houston because she is a perfect illustration that no matter how much one has, that feeling of lack can still arise. Famous people like Ms. Houston can be our teachers and save us the trouble of traveling down similar paths by learning lessons from watching their lives. Becoming a commodity and losing one's humanity can only lead to a prison of sorrow. In one of her interviews she said she could have anything she wanted in the world, and still she felt empty which drove her drug use and other excesses. I think that is because the only thing that can really fill that emptiness is one's humanity, and she had lost sight of it. Our humanity is our true wealth. There are no substitutions.
I doubt fame and riches will ever be my destiny, but still there is much to learn in that people like Whitney Houston completely burst the hypothetical bubble of "If only I was rich, if only I was loved, if only I was talented, if only I was famous, etc.; then I'd be happy." Seeing the illusion doesn't necessarily change a thing. The sense of lack will continue to return, but perhaps the appetite to try to fill it may lessen bit by bit. The price for that may be less productivity, but the gain is greater peace of mind.