This is a guest post by Sasha Cagen.
Why would I ever have to choose between being creative and having a partner? The mere idea is preposterous. But somewhere in the back of my mind, I feared that my creativity would die in a serious long-term relationship.
I remember the moment when this belief crystallized.
I was sitting on the edge of the bathtub in my studio apartment, chatting with an old friend from college. I remember the bathroom rug. I was about 28.
We were catching up. We had written a zine together six years earlier, and once our lives were intertwined, but by then we lived 3,000 miles apart in totally different worlds. We were reflecting about our creative lives, because at that point, neither of us was writing much. My friend told me her older sister got married and she had watched her become more domestic and settled; she seemed content. She wondered aloud, “Maybe life just gets simpler when you couple up and settle down.” The implication: That creative flame dies down and all the bristling energy around it. And life gets simpler, happier.
In that moment, her casual remark gelled as true for me. My fear was born: That settling down and having a partner would mean the death of my creative life.
My spirit recoiled.
Of course, it wasn’t just one conversation that caused me to think that being single would be more compatible with being creative, but I remember that talk well. Being in a serious relationship came to mean the death of my creative life. Probably I worried that I would lose my time alone and give all of myself to a quiet domesticity. I thought I would attract another writer and he would be a better writer than me, so I would give up my writing. (Strange to admit those insecurities, but true.)
I’d also absorbed ideas from a culture that says that men are the ones who are mission-driven and ambitious, but that didn’t square with my experience. I also was ambitious. Motherhood scared me even more. Being creative is where I feel myself come to life and make a contribution, to feel me. My creativity needs expanses of time. I didn’t want to give up my time.
Over the ten years since, I’ve been in a number of relationships. But I must admit that fear still lurked.
The ghost of Jane Austen followed me through life. Unlike Jane, I write nonfiction, but we both write about singleness and relationships. Staying single was Jane’s option for maintaining a creative life. But that was the eighteenth century; today it’s 2013. You would think we would have more options today, and we do!
My world started to open up as I started to examine my limiting beliefs and speak with more pride about my creative work.
All those assumptions started to fall away. I felt more free. My most recent boyfriend was super excited about my work as a writer and community-builder and he wanted us to collaborate. His support gave me strength to amplify my voice.
Now we are close friends. And we still support each other creatively.
Through that relationship I felt a door open, realizing that a relationship could actually support my creativity. Sure, I’d heard that many times, but I actually needed to live it to know it.
Of course’s it’s not an either-or: your creativity or your love life. But I needed to figure that out to know it, through my own journey in my own sweet time.
Naming a limiting belief is often the first step in letting it go.
It feels great to let that one go.
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Sasha Cagen is the author of Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics. While she researches her new book Quirkytogether she is teaching a new online class Quirkytogether 101. In this class and community you get to connect with others who share a vision of independence and interdependence in relationships. You’ll discover your version of a quirkytogether relationship where you bring your full quirky self to the relationship, honoring your individual spark and the spark of your partner. Join us in this weeklong online class and you’ll never lose yourself in a relationship again.