Getting Through the Middle
certainty is overrated anyway
You have to be more confused before you get clear.
The painting grows more awkward before it can be beautiful.
You have to walk through the dark hallway before you find the exit.
This is about the resistance to the inevitable space between here and what we want to create.
Do you have a room in your home that feels half-dead? Like it’s kind of unpleasant, but you don’t change it because it doesn’t seem worth it.
I let my sewing studio get stale that way recently. The fabrics I could see were “meh” to me. There were papers with scrawled notes strewn around; I left them out “so I’d remember them.” The shelf was bursting with tools I don’t use anymore.
Now I’m not the tidiest girl on the block, so a little chaos isn’t unusual, but the degree to which I just ignored more and more clutter was high even for me.
Clutter wasn’t a coincidence. I’ve known that I need to switch up my textile work for a month or so, but I wasn’t sure how. And while I was itching for that change, the resistance to it came out as apathy – and it SHOWED in my physical environment.
People think that apathy means doing nothing, but I usually find it’s the opposite; apathy can be very busy. I did stuff in my studio! I’d impatiently push the scraps from the last project aside and move on to the next until the cutting table was piled high with more stuff.
The problem is that it’s rarely just cleaning. It’s not just wiping the dust off objects or rearranging them on the same shelf. The problem is making space for the unknown. If you’ve ever moved homes you know — everything gets messier before it’s reorganized. You discover moldy tomatoes in the fridge and throw them away. You have to find boxes, tape them together, build piles where there weren’t piles before; it’s a whole scene.
This inevitable transition in the creative process applies to EVERY period of growth. I call it the Dim Room and the Dark Hallway.
The Dim Room is that blegh-but-familiar place in our brain. Everything is gray and the lighting is poor. We know what’s in the room, though we haven’t seen it closely in a long time. It’s not a fun place to be, but nothing’s going to startle us there either.
Outside the room is a totally Dark Hallway. You have to go into the hallway to clear the room out, let alone build a new room or leave the building entirely.
But you have to feel your way through with your feet, your hands running across the walls, listening for sounds and letting your eyes adjust to the dark. Brave, uncertain step by brave, uncertain step.
But here’s what often happens:
First you look around the Dim Room and realize you want to leave. You’re going to take on the challenge. You worked up the courage! It feels amazing! You find the door and walk through. But shit, it’s dark – now you’re more disoriented than you were before. This is terrible; something must have gone wrong. Your strategy-brain panics for answers. Maybe you turn back to the Dim Room or slip into someone else’s room ASAP.
Maybe it seems like everyone else is romping in clover fields (excuse the mixed metaphors) but it’s just not true. We all have our own dim rooms and dark hallways.
Certainty is way overrated anyway.
What to do if you’re in “the dim room” in your creative life:
Don’t panic. This is the way of things. It’s just your brain’s current “safe” default state.
Enjoy what you enjoy there. Don’t amplify your dissatisfaction. You might want to tell yourself that being more unhappy with where you are is going to help you change, but that’s a recipe for lasting frustration, no matter where you are.
Ask what result — what you want to see — that would be worth stepping into the Dark Hallway for. When you’re ready, you will.
What to do if you’re in the Dark Hallway:
Congratulate yourself for being in the middle of change. You are not behind. YOU ARE IN THE MIDDLE. This is the hardest part and you’re already doing it!
Notice how often you’re looking for the right strategy. The one answer to rule them all. Let that go. It doesn’t exist.
Remember that you’re safe in this weird Dark Hallway phase.
Take only the next step in front of you. Then the next one. Shout to your friends over in their own hallways, encouraging each other. You are feeling your way through.
Failure is not a problem. It’s exactly how you find your way through – by bumping into things.
You WILL find your way to a whole new room. Make sure you notice! Celebrate!
I want to hear: where are you right now? The dim room? The dark hallway? Are you on the other side? You’re not alone.
P.S. It’s my job to walk alongside you so you can go exactly where you want to go in your creative life, because it matters deeply. The unknown can even be fun when you trust it. I promise. Actually fun. Book a call with me to talk about what you want to create here.