The Blue Dragon: Post Project Blues
by Pamela Newton
September 15, 2021
Creative and performing artists are a curious breed. Manic energy and depressive
introspection coexist in the same humble individuals. We know how to turn on during an audition, an opening, or in the midst of a performance. We learn how to project our energy outward during parties with sponsors or on occasions where the grant recipients interact with the selection committee. On the other hand we are silent for hours on end in the studio or take on the voice and mannerisms of imagined characters in rehearsal. Both gregarious and reclusive, we deal with a complex, rich inner life. Most of the time this works to our advantage. It helps bring depth to the creative process. It allows us to craft wispy impulses into finished work with amazing endurance.
We also tend to crash when projects are completed. Whether this involves a new set of poems, a bronze statue, a successful choreography, or a big hit of a sales pitch, the phenomenon is the same. The demand for superhuman energy and focus excites and exhausts simultaneously. And, we get addicted to the process. The crisis mode stimulates the endorphins, creating a high. (I can keep at this level for about 6 ½ weeks.) Then the activating deadline is met, and the project comes to an end. We have pushed through all sorts of barriers and have come out the other side.
The challenge is to deal with the inevitable letdown, the blue filter over the yellow. There may have even been glowing reviews and an unexpected financial gain; but plummeting energy is not about the practical, outer world. The deflation is about the earlier inflation, and it always seems to show up in some way. It may show up as depression, exhaustion, or simply in an irritable mood.
I have found that I can prepare for the swing into the “Blues”, lessening its intensity. When I’m in the stage of creative brainstorming and working late into the night, I can remember to eat well, reduce my social interactions, and take on fewer unnecessary jobs. I can make sure to recall, “The higher I go, the lower I end up.” I also try to put the project in perspective emotionally. As much as it has taken me over and dragged me into another world, it is not the only reality (even if it is the definitive production). I try to focus on the bigger picture. I will have to re-enter the earth’s atmosphere at time, and there will be other projects after this one – maybe even equally fascinating and important. I try to laugh at myself.
When the challenge is over, I still crash, but I can now feel the relief of a job well done. This letdown is only one stage in the creative process. I try to enjoy that pause and to let go of the sense of urgency that pushes me to work all the time. The brainstorming stage will be back; another emotional boost will hit with its alarming “invasion” of images.
The “Blues” are a state of bodymindsoul that prepares the ground for the green of new possibility. What feels like a down period of black and white often contains a full palette of colors tumbling around just beneath the surface. When we stay open to creative energies, ideas and patterns will re-emerge. So, maybe you should turn on Bessie Smith, close your eyes, and relax.