Twice in my professional working life I experienced two dark times, and the results were as unexpected as they were confounding.
The year 1987 was a trifecta of convulsions. My father died suddenly in March, leaving behind a business that was a colossal mess. My church figuratively blew up in June. Then my job blew up in October, and I walked away from what many considered the best part of the company to work for.
A little over twenty years later, my job blew up – and for all the wrong reasons. Success in doing new things had outstripped the organization’s ability to deal with it, and so the team was broken apart.
Both situations led to self-doubt, loss of sleep, emotional turmoil, and ruptured relationships. For a time, it all looked dark.
In the first situation, within two short months in a different job in the company, a job that several people had turned down because it was largely about dealing with negative stuff, I realized I had walked into the equivalent of a professional gold mine. I had really good people working for me, and huge opportunities in front of us. I simply had not expected anything like this. A lot of work, yes, and dealing with negative stuff, yes, but the opportunity to change an industry? How did that happen?
I did some of the best work of my career. What we accomplished won national recognition and awards.
In the second situation, the critical thing was to keep as much of the team intact and functional as possible. Which we did, but it would never function like the old team had. Some people left, others were dispersed, but enough of the understanding and philosophy of work survived to allow people to continue to flourish.
But also born during this time was my decision to publish this crazy manuscript I had been playing with for three or four years. Eventually, that decision led to the publication of Dancing Priest and its sequel, A Light Shining; becoming involved with poetry (and a new book – due out this December – Poetry at Work); and writing for The High Calling and Tweetspeak Poetry. None of that could have been foreseen at the time.
I’m doing some of the best writing of my life.
My purpose here isn’t to celebrate the dark times. They are awful to experience. But what came from them was something better, something I never would have believed possible, something I never would have imagined.
What came was creativity and accomplishment.
Over at Tweetspeak Poetry, we’ve been discussing Spin: Taking Your Creativity to the Nth Degree by Claire Burge. One of the questions Burge asks is, what dark places have developed your creativity? To see the discussion and the questions others answered, please visit the site.
Photograph by Emma Ivanova via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.