Acedia [apathy] is a danger to anyone whose work requires great concentration and discipline yet is considered by many to be of little practical value… [but] if I am to care, it forces me to summon all my interior motivation and strength. Kathleen Norris
I have work to do, work that requires creativity, ingenuity, discipline, and contemplation. My work is not rote and many times I wish it were, yet in our information-oriented work culture very few people are blessed with rote work. Most of us are forced to think, create and deliver. And yet, many are the times I just don’t feel like it.
And often, in my work, those times of apathy can last for weeks. Some call it “writer’s block.” I think it is “creator’s block.” I have been blocked for the past couple of weeks. It is weird because it is so pervasive. It impacts all I do, including conversation.
It’s not that I don’t care. I do care, but I cannot summon the strength or energy to do anything about it.
Check out this morning’s journal entry…
What I once perceived as depression, then labeled as Lethargy, I think would now be more accurately described as Apathy, or in spiritual terms Acedia.
I have been neglecting my morning routine of brief inspirational reading, meditation and journaling. Instead, I stay in bed long in the mornings, usually responding to emails and do just a bit of writing, although I am not even really keen on that.
Last week I did a painting and discovered a lack of energy, creativity or pleasure. It was a “palette test” and I did discover that I could work with the palette desired by a friend even though it is an awkward combination of colors.
Another troubling aspect of the apathy/acedia can be discovered in my inability to converse. Normally, I have an easy time engaging in a conversation with interesting people but of late I can find nothing to say or questions to ask. For instance, yesterday in Reno I met with one of the foremost experts in the discipline of WASH (sanitation and hygiene in developing countries). I sat at lunch and could not think of a question or statement which the normal me would have been inundated with.
It’s not that I don’t care, I am just empty minded and quite frustrated by that state of mind. I sat across the table from him like a stone, my mind totally blank.
Have you ever felt the same? My guess is your response would be positive. And so what do we do about it?
I think the answer is addressed by Stephen King regarding his cure for writer’s block: Just write, even if it’s crap. Write. I have found the same for apathy. Whatever task you have on your “to-do” list, just do it—even if it calls for the creativity you don’t think you can access.
Kathleen Norris said it well when she wrote, “… [apathy] forces me to summon all my interior motivation and strength.” I think I have done some of my best work “when I didn’t feel like it.” And if I were to wait for the magical moment of inspiration… well, I’d still be in bed.
It’s odd isn’t it, that apathy can produce our most creative work because we force ourselves to discover, once again, that creative genius hiding deep within us all.
Apathy May Be the Spark to Creativity
Photo courtesy of XXX at istockphoto