And now, it's January. Where I live that means darkness falls at 4:30 and rain falls most of the time. The holidays are over, and the work that 'December Sara' optimistically shoved into the distant-future time called "next year" is looming like a mountain.
I think I should be feeling a surge of energy for the new year. I should be a hotbed of strategic thinking, a whirlwind of goal-setting. I should be choosing my key words for the year, making vision boards, calling in the future. But I don't, and I'm not. Yet.
Instead, what I'm feeling is a particular kind of emptiness. I feel flattened, restless, deeply uninterested in my to-do list, untethered. I'm in a state of "I don't know" and the only two things I can locate as desires are solitude and rest.
And this, my friends, is The Void - or at least one example of it. And the good news is that this Void space is not an anomaly or a cause for concern or treatment. It is a predictable, regular part of the cycle of the creating process.
You Are Here
In creativity terms, the void is the space between the end of one creating cycle and the start of a new one. It is the groundless place we occupy when a project, relationship, career, life-stage, year, week, or day is over and whatever is coming next has yet to show itself.
The void is the boundary-less state of passage in which we have released what came before and have not yet grabbed hold of whatever is coming next. In the Void, we are neither firmly here nor exactly there. The scaffolding of identity we've constructed around the activities and rhythms of the "old life" has fallen way and we dis-integrate into the primordial ooze of unbounded self.
Between caterpillar and butterfly, there is only goo. And, let's be honest: For most of us, being goo is not super-comfortable. Most of us have a strong preference for things like shape and form and purpose and control and direction and surety and clarity and looking like we've got ourselves together. More than that, we like doing and the Void is fundamentally not about doing, it is about being.
But I don't LIKE being goo!
So, you ask, why not just skip the void? Why not just "power through" and keep doing? Why not run back to whatever worked before? Why not resist it, fight it, ignore it, numb ourselves to it's discomforts?
I'm going to give you my best, most creativity coachy answer. Ready?
Because the quality of your creating is determined by the quality of your relationship to the Void.
Here's the deal. If, when a Void time comes, you resist it, reject it, or over-ride its signals, you initiate another cycle of creating another version of exactly what you have created before. No evolution, no expansion, just around you go again. You'll stay at the same level and wonder why nothing ever changes or feels fresh. Boo.
But, if you have the courage to allow the Void to take you under into the dark formlessness of not knowing, you will return from your dive into that space-that-is-not-as-empty-as-you-think-it-is with something genuinely new. It's as if the dive itself begins the process of reshaping us into the tender new form of the person we are becoming. The dive into the Void stretches us into the exact shape we're going to need to be in to bring forward the something-truly-new that is wanting to come through us next.
Just Ask Janus
Every culture and religion has its own ways of describing The Void and guiding you through these times, (and I'll talk about some of these in my next post,) but since it's January, let's start with Janus, the two-faced God from Ancient Rome.
With one face turned to the past and the other to the future, Janus was the God of change and time, associated with physical thresholds like doorways and gates and with temporal thresholds like the beginning of the year, the month, and the day and the shift from times of peace to times of war and back to times of peace. (Please please please, back to times of Peace.) In one hand, Janus held a staff to guide travelers along the right route, and in the other he held a key to unlock any gate.
Now you may not be an ancient Roman, and you may not be prepared to make your own Void experience with animal sacrifices, masks, and feasts (or maybe you are!) but this doesn't mean you can't invoke Janus too. If you find yourself feeling empty, lost, or full of not-knowing, you can call upon the image of Janus to remind you that there's nothing wrong with you at all, you are simply at a sacred threshold between what's ending and what's coming. You are in that waiting-room where you are required to fully let go of what came before without yet knowing for sure what is calling you next.
What could it hurt to ask Janus to help keep you safe in this space between boundaries? What harm could it do to choose to trust his staff and his key to direct you and open the gates to your future? If you can believe, even for a moment, that Janus has got you covered, perhaps you can give yourself that moment to Rest. Allow. Await. Which is all that the Void needed from you all along. (Cookie-feasting is recommended but optional.)
On Beyond Janus...
If you are intrigued by the Void as part of creative life, and want to know more about this and the other thresholds that are baked into the creative process, I hope you'll join me later this month for my online workshop The Five Crises of Creating - and How to Rise Through Them.
We'll be talking about how you can learn to recognize and anticipate these thresholds so you can get smarter about how to stay unstuck and sustain your creative momentum so you can accomplish all your creative visions for 2018 and beyond.
Wishing you all a year of fiery creative mojo!