Yes, it’s a thing. Well at least it is now that I’ve named it. And yes, the feeling of creative hunger is very real.
Creative hunger can be painful. If you try not to notice it, you might be able to put it out of mind for awhile. But if you never feed it, you can expect it to intensify over time.
If you’re suffering from creative hunger, it means you’re not satisfying something deeply important to you. At the soul level.
The feeling of creative hunger isn’t always easy to identify. It might not show up for you clearly packaged and labelled.
You might simply notice yourself waking up one morning feeling a tightness in your throat or chest and a gnawing, empty sensation in your gut.
You might start to notice a thought resurfacing that something is missing in your life. A thought that is persistent and grows in intensity.
You might start feeling inexplicably sad. Or unfulfilled for no apparent reason.
You might react by ignoring the uneasy feeling and hoping it will go away.
You might go about your day and try not to think about it. You might find that the feeling keeps resurfacing, so that you need to keep pushing it away. You might notice that pushing it away saps your energy and leaves you feeling depleted.
This is what happened to me before I knew creative hunger was even a thing. I felt a yearning inside nothing seemed to satisfy. No matter how much my life seemed to be “on track”, it felt increasingly off track. But I didn’t know why.
I spent a lot of lunch hours in the self-help section of the bookstore in the underground shopping area below the office tower where I practiced law. I was always looking for “the” book that would finally tell me what I was missing. The book that would how me how to fill myself up.
I remember reading Martin Seligman’s book, Flourish, when it first came out. His book absolutely flattened me.
I’d read his previous book about happiness. I’d been actively pursuing happiness.
But in this new book, Dr. Seligman informed me there was something much more important than happiness. What we’re all really seeking, he wrote, is a deeper sense of well-being, meaning and purpose. What we all want to do is to flourish.
When I read this, I felt deeply saddened. I realized I’d focussed all my attention on advancing my career, creating a family and mothering my kids, building a beautiful and inviting home, and going on exotic and interesting trips. I’d been actively doing all the things I thought would bring me happiness.
But purpose? Meaning? Deep well-being? Nope. None of that resonated. I realized I was not flourishing. I had absolutely no idea how to change that.
What I did know, though, was that I was now determined to figure this out.
While there were no specific steps I knew would help me find an answer, I eventually landed on a practice that started to point me in the right direction.
Every day, I practiced building my awareness of my thoughts and feelings.
I made a commitment to myself to start noticing what lit me up and what didn’t; what experiences felt expansive to me and which ones felt limiting; which times I felt authentic and truly myself, and the other times I felt like an actor playing a part.
What eventually happened in my case was that one morning, I had an intensely vivid dream of me painting large canvases.
This was a bizarre and unexpected dream, as I hadn’t done anything artistic for decades. But the part of me constantly on alert to notice which things lit me up felt as though a high voltage light had suddenly been switched on.
This seemed important.
I allowed myself to sink into the image of me painting. I felt alive in a way I hadn’t for years.
After that dream happened, a lot of memories began to flood back. My awareness heightened.
I remembered how much I’d loved colouring and doing crafts when I was little. How much I’d loved going on family picnics with my friend’s family to watch her artist father make the scenery come to life on paper.
I recalled how, even after I’d given up on my own art after feeling wounded by the cutting comments of my grade 5 art teacher, I’d embraced photo taking, then landscaping, then home design.
I noticed that I always dragged my family to the great art museums when we went on family trips. That I soaked up conversations with any artists who crossed my path. That I loved to labour over my latest home renovation ideas, draw out different possible configurations in great detail and bore my husband with my excited chatter about all the different things we could do.
I started to make sense of my survey results from a “strengths survey” my firm had asked me to complete. The survey identified my top strength as my “ability to see beauty”. A result vastly different from the survey results obtained by my fellow tax lawyers and accountants.
I’ve never been sure why my knowing that I was creatively hungry came to me as a sudden bolt out of the blue. This is not the normal pattern I’ve seen in my clients. But I do believe this happened because I’d become willing to listen to what my deeper self was telling me I needed. I was actively investigating my feeling of emptiness.
I’d been missing something in my life that my soul craved at the deepest level, and I was finally open to hearing what that thing was.
In my case, what’d I’d been missing was the creativity I’d deprived myself of for so long. The creativity I’d relegated to small, confined areas of my life. The creative hunger that had been surfacing as morning pangs of emptiness.
There are a lot of different reasons we might be left feeling unfulfilled as we pursue our busy lives. For some of us, that reason has nothing to do with creativity.
But for some of us, the need we’re not satisfying is our need to be creative.
For those of us who do crave creativity, our creative hunger might shows up only in little hints here and there and a vague feeling that something is missing.
For others of us, the need to create is glaring and obvious and fully felt. It’s something we’ve been denying because we believe we simply don’t have any choice. (Which is never true, but that’s another article.)
In all cases we experience creative hunger, it’s a sign that we’re denying ourselves creative experiences that could be firing us up. That could be giving us the extra fuel we need in other areas of our lives. That could be adding an extra spark of joy. That could be helping us to feel a greater connection with other human beings. That could be helping us to feel whole, complete and satisfied. That could be helping us find out who we really are and what we have to offer the world.
I strongly believe that creativity is something that can lift up our whole experience of life. It is something that can help us flourish, in the way that Dr. Seligman identified as so important to our overall well-being.
If anything I’ve said here described is something you’ve felt and you don’t know where to turn next, I’d like you to know that help is available. Even if it’s been decades since you’ve done anything creative.
I’m all about helping people like you nourish your creative soul. And you can do it without sacrificing anything else in your life. If you’d like to learn more, just cut and paste this link:
Copy this link in your browser to schedule a free one hour strategy session with me. We’ll walk through your challenges, I’ll diagnose your issues, and we can determine whether my Creative Expansion coaching program can help you flourish in your life by adding a healthy dose of creativity.