What to do during The Dark Night

No, not Batman movies.

In my playwriting class, we talked about "the life of the project." One step, sitting just past the center point, is:

The Dark Night of the SOUL!

Ah, such a fitting description. The steps, in order, were:

  • This is the best idea ever.
  • This is harder than I thought.
  • This is gonna take some work.
  • This sucks, and it's boring.
  • It'll be good to finish because I'll learn something for next time.
  • It's done and it sucks, but it's better than I thought.
It's a pretty good description of the life of a creative project. But what happens when you hit that DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL!

In a project, it can just die away. How many unfinished projects do you have laying around? Happily I don't have too many, but there are some, hiding in the corners of my room. But this stage hits more than just in a project.

What happens when it's your life?

It's that funk. It's the moment after you've been unable to get motivation beyond flipping on the TV or XBox, and sitting for a couple hours, before shrugging and just going to sleep. That moment when sleep won't come, laying in bed, lights off, wondering there's a bat in your room. No, not Batman, but a real bat.

And you start to think...what's the point?

That's the Dark Night of the Soul. Most of us have been there. Some of us live there for extremely long amounts of time. I'm one of those people. In life, and in creative projects.

So, how do I get out of it? If I stayed there all the time I'd either be dead or never leave my room. 

I start with setting a nearly unattainable goal. Say, re-orchestrate an entire piece in roughly 24 hours. Actually, it was closer to 36...from Wednesday afternoon to Thursday evening. This included not just the notes, but having a completely clean and wonderful score, ready to print and bind, and send off.

Then, I do it. To accomplish the task, I had to work. And I mean WORK. In those 36 hours, I spent about 25 of them working. Wednesday dinner and Thursday lunch I worked while eating. Thursday dinner I took off because I had all the notes in place, so I could take an hour off.

Ah, 25 hours of work in 36 hours. If we push it from 8am Wednesday to 12am Friday (40 hours), it would have been 29 hours of work, as I started after being in class and teaching on Wednesday.

Now, for some, that's not a huge amount of work. for others, used to a roughly 9-5 day without a family, it seems like a lot. For those with multiple kids and jobs, well...you're probably laughing at how much relaxation time I had during those times. And probably a bit envious that I had that much time to work on a single project.

But the point isn't to compare. The point is to say I stick with a single project in a near obsessive manner for a short period of time. And I accomplish that project.

If I don't, I stay in the Dark Night of the SOUL! If I do, it helps break up the funk. It's a job accomplished, not something sitting on my desk in the "to-do" pile.

The only way to break out is to complete something. anything. So, I do.

That score has been sent to June in Buffalo. Will it get in? I hope so, but this has been a year of losing in those matters...but that's a different matter. 

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