Is Midlife Creativity a Biological Imperative?

From creating babies to creating art, it's all the biological imperative.

Ultrasound of my grandson, Henry, 2015

Ever fall out of touch with a friend and then put off contacting them because you’ve waited too long? And the longer you wait, the harder it gets? That’s how I feel about writing this blog post.

The priest of blogging solemnly inquires, “How long has it been since your last blog post?”

I must confess: it’s been three long years.

Time to get back in the groove. I’m retooling my business, away from editing and towards creativity coaching, and I need to be walking the talk about the importance of sharing what we make.

But when I sit down to write this post (or anything else, for that matter), a few little problems arise.

My distraction problem

When I sit down to write, I am overwhelmed by one or more of the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • A sense of impending doom
  • Confusion
  • Hunger
  • Twitches, aches, palpitations, spasms
  • A mysterious smell coming from the kitchen
  • A sudden intense craving for Inspectors Morse, Lewis, Stanhope or Barnaby. And for chocolate.

My past-failure problem

When I sit down to write, I think, what’s the point? I told myself three years ago that I’d keep writing my blog, and I didn’t, so I’m bound to fail again.

(But, what kind of message is this to give my clients — or, for that matter, myself?)

My obligation problem

When I sit down to write, I remember that I haven’t attended to:

  • Last year’s taxes
  • Keeping in touch with distant friends and family
  • Doing my qigong routine
  • Putting the beans on to soak
  • Learning to speak French
  • Finding the source of that smell in the kitchen

I do not actually DO any of these things, you understand, but writing a blog post while they remain undone seems inappropriate somehow. Uncouth.

My idea problem

When I first sit down to write, not a single idea appears on the horizon, I picture myself alone on a vast, empty beach. Then, a distant rumble. I look up and see a towering tsunami of ideas thundering towards me.

Megatons of ideas.

I take the only sensible action. I flee.

My age problem

When I sit down to write, my 58 years heckle me:

So much time wasted! Oh, the things you could have done, the books you should have written!

Margaret Atwood has over 65 books to her name, not counting libretti, TV scripts, anthologies and collected poems. And what have YOU got to show?

What I’ve got is 10 linear feet of journals (I measured), plus all that writing in other people’s books and 18 blog posts from 3 YEARS AGO.

My grief problem

I’ve been creatively blocked for too many years. Now, when I sit down to write, a toxic grief pulls me to it like flypaper. Once I make contact, I feel like I’m stuck fast and cannot get free.

I am just getting started at this “sharing my work” thing. I am late. But am I TOO late?

For women in our reproductive years, the words “I’m late” signal pregnancy, the very acme of fertility.

But at midlife and beyond, doesn’t “late” imply the opposite?

Late bloomer (wasted all that time).

And, eventually, the very acme of “late,” when I someday become the late Marial Shea.

Sorry, am I bumming you out?

Can the biological imperative save me again?

I first experienced the gale force of the biological imperative at age 19, when I was suddenly, inexplicably, compelled to conceive a child. Looking back on the perilously troubled young woman I was, I shake my head at her decision.

Yet, I know it’s one of the few totally unambivalent decisions of my life. No doubts whatsoever. Three years later, I would have a second child. Somewhere in me, I knew these children would save me from myself (thanks, guys).

I used to think “biological imperative” meant our urge to reproduce. But now, well into midlife, I see the true depth and reach of this primal urge.

I am again feeling the imperative, as visceral as when I conceived my babies. But now I yearn to conceive and birth my own creative soul.

These words of writer Linda Kavelin Popov greeted me when I crossed over into menopause:

“As a woman moves beyond her reproductive years, she is ready for her productive years.”

And I am ready for MY productive years or, as I think of them, my creative years.

Not just ready. I feel compelled now to be a maker, as I felt compelled to conceive my children. The force is just as powerful, and when I refuse it my life becomes difficult at best, impossible and grief-laden at worst.

When I say yes, life flows. What more do I need to know?

I am ready, and I am right on time.

P.S. Are there any ways you feel like you’re running late in your creative life, anything you regret not doing? Is there one small step you can take this week towards getting started? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.