You know what can really spin you out? Comparing yourself to others.
For me, it's writers. In the middle of the night, I'll wake up in a panic, fearing I haven't written enough, accomplished enough, and am putting my energy into the wrong things. Julia Cameron's concept of the Shadow Artist* speaks like the Ghost of Christmas Future for me, warning me while it stands over my bed at night. This could be you, Brie!
So I get up.
If I can't fall back asleep, I'll go on benders researching contests and other writers until I get so sleepy, I waddle myself back to my room in the dark and fall into bed.
I used to fight this urge. With all the wellness expert talk about getting 8 hours of sleep, it makes the light sleepers of the world feel like we're moral failures. It's not like we want to wake up in the middle of the night. Believe me, we're well aware of the fact that sleep is important.
But I've started to view my wakings as something else: the direct connection to my muse.
In times of my life when I don't have enough creative output, I don't sleep well. And by creative output, I don't mean "getting work/tasks done." What I mean is my heart work, my deepest expression, my dream work -- writing.
I'm coming to believe that when I'm not writing with regularity during the day, my muse wakes me up in the middle of the night to get it out. Almost like a catharsis or a creative reckoning. Creative constipation is a real thing.
Like this post, for example. It's 4 am. I've been trying to sleep since 2:30 am. I'm finally giving in and putting fingers to keyboard.
What I've noticed is, once I write what needs to be written, I can fall back asleep instantly. No tossing and turning, just pure sleepiness, like the normals of the world.
My best ideas come to me in the middle of the night. They always have. The timing is not convenient. But writing and sharing it is deeply meaningful for me. If I'm not making time during the day, I am thankful it's coming at all.
Here are a few questions to stoke your muse:
What makes you anxious or jealous? People fear these feelings or characterize them as bad. I think they are clues helping us stay in integrity with ourselves. Certainly acting like a jerk on behalf of these feelings isn't adult. But using these proddings as guideposts to steer you back to alignment can be helpful. Take notice of who or what ignites envy in you. Or what, specifically, makes you feel anxious?
What wakes you up in the middle of the night? If it wakes you, try outputting (journaling, reading, drawing) and see if this lets you go back to sleep. If it does, trust that you have creative energy that needs to move and express. If it's disrupting too much of your sleep, try creating during the day - even waking up early or staying up late.
Who in your orbit has a strong creative flow? Follow or stay current with people who are constantly innovating, creating, and trying new things. And not in a sketchy, jealous, Shadow Artist way. Instead, with an apprentice mindset. Watch what they do and see what path they've taken. Don't get obsessed with their specific path; their path is not yours. Rather, see if some of the energy they exude can awaken something dormant in you.
For if you can't find your creative inspiration and talk of your muse turns on your wtf meter, try this: What do you deeply notice and appreciate in daily life? Do you love a well written novel? Do you appreciate a perfectly put together outfit? Do you come alive in a beautiful garden? Does a creating a new project for your children or grandchildren excite you? Attention is the precursor to joy. Joy is the direct taproot to your creative source. What you bring your attention to in daily living, what you enjoy thoroughly says something about what you'd like to creatively share.
We are all meant to move creative energy, and our muse is here to help us stay on point with this. Open your consciousness to ways in which your muse is already speaking to you in your life.
To your creative expressions,
*Shadow Artist -- People who fear releasing their own latent creativity, and in their yearning, are drawn to experience it vicariously through the talents of others, rarely practicing it themselves. They often get close to real artists and criticize them as a result of their own inner feelings of lack. Artists beware!