[See Part One if you haven’t read it already.]
Motherhood and creative work
“I’d be in the middle of a sentence and someone needed to go to mall for new shoes, so the sentence would be lost.”
That is a quote by Amy Bloom, who has worked as a psychotherapist, taught at Yale University, and is Wesleyan University’s Writer-in-Residence.
In an interview about being a mother and writer, she commented, “When I started, I wrote late at night, after they were in bed.
“I could do that and get away with it because I’m not much of a housekeeper and I didn’t need much sleep.
“I liked my kids and didn’t care much about my house, so it worked.”
But, she admitted, “writing with children present is not productive. They really never go away. My daughter made a sign for my study door that says ‘Come in’ on one side, and on the other side it says: ‘Knock first, then come in.’ That’s a perfect description of me as a writer.”
From “Mothers Who Write interview” by Cheryl Dellasega, PhD.
See the Amy Bloom author page for a list of her titles.
In her article “The Special Challenges of Highly Intelligent and Talented Women Who Are Moms,” Belinda Seiger, PhD, LCSW, writes that in her private psychotherapy practice and her personal life, she has “known many gifted women who seem to possess what I refer to as the ‘rage to achieve.’
“They are constantly driven to learn, to create and to be intellectually productive even while raising young children. Many of these women face periods of frustration when the demands of family and their need for intellectual immersion collides.”
Seiger adds, “As one friend who was getting her second master’s degree put it: “mass chaos” ensues when one attempts to become immersed intellectually while simultaneously remaining attentive and available for family responsibilities…”
She notes that “Like gifted children and young adults; gifted adults are distinguishable not only by their IQ’s but by their intensity, multiple talents, high energy, curiosity and obsessive need to increase in-depth knowledge in subjects that interest them.
“Trying to ignore these qualities can result in a depressed mood, anxiety and feelings of being unfulfilled emotionally and intellectually.”
Those kinds of feelings and reactions may also be part of burnout from either attempting too much, beyond your emotional and physical resources – or being chronically frustrated at not being able to pursue creative ambitions, whether or not you consider yourself gifted.
A rage to achieve
In another article, Dr. Seiger writes about a client she called Weed Girl who liked to use pot because it “took the edge off of her brain.”
Seiger adds, “Instead of developing the essential coping skills for managing what I call a ‘rage to achieve,’ many gifted adults grow up doing exactly what Weed Girl learned to do, that is they learn how to ‘numb and dumb’ their passion and sensitivity by smoking pot not just once a day, but all day every day.”
From article Weed Girl – numbing her “rage to achieve”
This may apply also to a number of talented performers such as actors and musicians, who have additional pressures to achieve at a high level because so many people are depending on them to keep going, keep performing.
While Amy Bloom seems to have developed her attitudes and schedules to work productively and maintain her health, other artists may push themselves too hard.
“Writing furiously for a month can be exciting and a lot can be accomplished, it may also be a recipe for exhaustion and writer’s burnout.
“Also, what happens afterward? Are the novels and scripts getting completed? Or are they put back on the shelf when regular life takes over again?”
From my Inner Writer post “The Writer’s Circle” – about a program by coach Jenna Avery.
Our workaholic culture
In his article “Overwhelm & Clutter,” Brad Swift notes “When our lives are shaped by the fear and lack-based inherited purpose, many times we can get into a vicious circle of doing and having which leads to a life of overwhelm and clutter.
“Going down this path can lead us to a life filled to over-flowing with doing, doing, doing, which can in many cases result in a lot of having, having, having but at the same time a true sense of satisfaction, fulfillment and joy continues to elude us.
“To add fuel to the fire, we live in a culture where ‘workaholism’ is a socially sanctioned addiction, for which we get well rewarded with acknowledgement from our boss, overtime pay, and other perks until we finally burnout, still wondering, “Is this all there is to life?”
Read about the publications and programs of his Life on Purpose Institute.
Mania – Hypomania
Peter C. Whybrow, M.D. thinks “the technologies that helped create the 1990s bubble have also created a new world of…overload of everything from food to information…The new environment that we have created in America (which in the book I have dubbed The Fast New World) is compelling, but also unique in human experience.
“And most important, it is potentially toxic for the individual and for our nation. … Too many of us are now addicted to the treadmill we have created, and we are making ourselves sick. More of what we are doing is not enough…”
Comments from his site peterwhybrow.com about his book “American Mania: When More Is Not Enough.”
Related ideas are presented by John D. Gartner, Ph.D., who says “Successful entrepreneurs are not just braggarts. They are highly creative people who quickly generate a tremendous number of ideas — some clever, others ridiculous.”
He thinks their “flight of ideas, jumping from topic to topic in a rapid energized way, is a sign of hypomania – which can also include being “filled with energy… flooded with ideas… driven, restless, and unable to keep still… often works on little sleep… feels brilliant, special, chosen, perhaps even destined to change the world… can be euphoric…”
These quotes come from his book “The Hypomanic Edge : The Link Between (A Little) Craziness and (A Lot of) Success in America.”
A Booklist review of the book notes when clinical psychologist Gartner says “hypomanic,” he “refers not to clinical mental illness but to a temperament, characterized by an elevated mood state that feels ‘highly intoxicating, powerful, productive and desirable,’ that can, and sometimes does, easily tip over into full-blown manic depression.”
Also see Gartner’s article “The Hypomanic Edge.”
Depression vs burnout
In her article “5 Ways to Bring Yourself Back from Burnout” (O, The Oprah Magazine), Martha Beck, PhD writes, “Scientists differentiate the two, and it’s a crucial distinction. If you confuse burnout with depression and address it only with antidepressants or therapy, you’ll overlook the behavioral changes you must make to restore your depleted physical and hormonal reserves.
“Left unchecked, burnout can be lethal. So if you’re anywhere between lightly toasted and totally charred, it’s time to chill.”
A description for the course Your Best Life in the Arts by creativity coach Eric Maisel, PhD notes:
“Life produces stress, the artistic personality produces additional stress, creating produces even more stress, and living the artist’s life is the topper! Learn how to identify the stressors in your life and how to implement stress management techniques…”
From my information page: “Eric Maisel on Your Life in the Arts” – which includes a video interview with him.
Also see my list of articles on Stress.
Another book that could be helpful: “Reclaiming the Fire: How Successful People Overcome Burnout” by management consultant and psychology instructor at UCLA and Harvard, Steven Berglas.
“Being more intentional, grounded and grateful is not just a good thing to do for the holiday season. It’s a way to live all year long. And not only that, it’s the quickest way to transform your life from ordinary to extraordinary.” Carrie Contey, Ph.D.
“If you aren’t intentional about how you want the holidays to go, you’ll be swept up in the rapids this time of the year.” Lisa Byrne, founder of the WellGrounded Life Community.
“So much research has been done on stress that we now know even if you cannot change all of life’s circumstances, you can change what stress does to you…and thrive.” Naturopathic physician Alan Christianson
The article includes videos about the above, and links to their online classes.