Restoring Yourself: the life-giving cure for creative pneumonia

I’m writing this from a supine position, on my back after several days of wrestling the plague. No, it’s not the dread coronavirus, nor is it pneumonia–but coughing, aching, feeling lethargic and foggy between bouts of blowing snot bubbles made me think about the need to breathe.

Breathing. It’s something I mostly take for granted, this most critical yet automatic act of living.

The act of drawing a breath allows you to think, move, eat, laugh, make love, curse, and everything else that makes up this thing called life. You’d feel it within about ten seconds if you stopped. After a minute, you’d be looking for any possible way to get air flowing into your body again.

Pneumonia or other breath-stealing ailments can invade your system and cause the lungs to slowly fill with fluids. At first, it might just present as coughing or slight shortness of breath. Maybe you’ve been feeling funky for a week and then notice that climbing a small flight of stairs leaves you gasping. If this continues, it begins to affect other things such as brain function, sleep, digestion, and energy levels. Before long, your body is diverting more and more resources just to keep the lungs going. The whole system is focused on getting an inadequate supply of oxygen available from compromised lungs. Eventually, the body shuts down more and more until barely a flicker of life remains. Left unattended, it leads to death.

The thing is, many people are living with “creative pneumonia” and don’t even know it.

What does this mean?

As I have come to see “creativity,” it’s something that goes far beyond what’s needed to produce works of art or invention. I realize that the word—and those surrounding it—has evolved over the years, turning it into something that’s really only meant for “those artsy types.”

But what if creative energy is alive in every cell of your body? What if it’s synonymous with being alive?

Being creative is an essential part of well, being.

There’s a state of creativity that exists beneath the zones of fight-flight-freeze-fawn. Every person alive has this as part of their inherent nature. I deal with this in much greater depth in my forthcoming book, The Creative Cure (scheduled for release in February 2021—Hierophant Publishing). I am fascinated by the connections I’ve discovered between neuroscience, trauma therapies, and other fields that seem unrelated to creativity at first glance.

This “creative zone” is characterized by groundedness; curiosity and openness; a sense of safety; connection; mindfulness; compassion; and joy. When you hear someone talk about being “in the flow,” this is directly connected to the state of being to which I’m referring.

Using my metaphor of physical pneumonia as a comparison, many people are living their lives barely able to take a breath, creatively speaking.

Anxiety, pressures of socialization, fear of rejection, and reactions triggered by unresolved traumas fill the lungs of their creative body. This leaves them lethargic, full of self-doubt, lacking the sense of purpose or self-worth to move toward what they would love to create in life. Furthermore, many people believe that they lack the needed talent to produce something “rare, original, and valuable” with their lives.

“I’m just not that creative.”

It’s a statement I hear over and over again.

What I would love to do is invite you into a very simple form of self-care and restoration.

You don’t need to set about on a grand creative venture. In fact, in my own experience, it’s nearly impossible to muster the creative energy needed for this sort of thing until one develops a foundation of inner health. Imagine trying to run a half-marathon if you were sick with pneumonia… no sane person would do that, but I have certainly tried to complete many things in life with my “creative lungs” full of all the things I talked about earlier.

I’ll share more in a future essay about how combining forms of listening to myself and meditation/mindfulness turned out to be a surprising, restorative protocol.

For now, I’d love to offer you a very simple first step. It’s a 3-question “creative self journaling” practice that I describe in a free ebook (11 page PDF) that you can download now.


This ridiculously simple process is medicine for creative pneumonia because you can use it to begin clearing your “lungs” by telling yourself the truth, saying what you need, and learning how to imagine and dream again.

This has turned into a daily lifeline for me—not a chore or one more list of “shoulds.” Little by little, day by day, inner self health returns.

I use it to reduce anxiety, acknowledge fears and things that hurt, and gain perspective. It is a vital dialogue with my inner creative self. I find that each day my inner self feels a bit stronger and healthier as I devote just a little time to nourishing the connection. Ideas and solutions come more quickly; I am able to face life with more curiosity and creativity.

I want to share this experience with you, too.

Since I first released this short ebook, thousands of people have downloaded it. I’m getting so many notes back as others are discovering their own creative vitality. They’re telling me about it!

This is by far the most gratifying thing I could ask for. I’ve always longed to be in genuine community with others who are seeking their own health and purpose. As you talk back to me with a comment below this essay or send me a note, it tells me that there are so many of us on the planet who are together in this desire for more life—for living with more creative health. Please feel free to leave a comment below and share this essay with friends you feel would like to be part of the creative conversation.

P.S. “creative self journaling” is just one way of listening to yourself. I feel strongly that it’s very effective—especially since it requires very little time each day. There are other ways and I’ll share more of them soon.

Jacob Nordby

Jacob Nordby

Jacob Nordby is the author of The Divine Arsonist: A Tale of Awakening, and Blessed Are the Weird – A Manifesto for Creatives. His third book, The Creative Cure, was released by Hierophant Publishing in 2021 with a foreword by Julia Cameron. He is the co-founder of The Institute for Creative Living and also a highly introverted person who can often be found working in the quietest corner of some Boise coffee shop.

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7 Responses

  1. You have inspired me deeply. I am an actor and writer, but my writing life has been in a coma for about 2 years. I am excited to begin this journaling process as a way to breathe life back into this creative cadaver. Thanks so much.

  2. I am a cardiac sonographer and I find myself in “flow” when I scan..I lose track of time, noises fade to nothing, I am utterly wrapped up in the art (sonography really is part art and part science and this is why it appeals to me so much) of showing off our beautiful hearts.
    Thank you for sharing, Jacob

  3. Sending healing energy your way, J. I may be creatively stymied but I am rallying- and reading your words somehow gives me energy.
    …somewhere along the line I picked up the belief that being creative is…indulgent and somewhat selfish. Journaling, poetry and plain mind-dumps came natural to me from childhood but a culmination of things has robbed me of….I have pages of me writing how I know I need to write–to express..and I just can’t bridge the gap. It’s like I detached–or rather, I feel broken when I sit and stare at crisp, blank pages, pencil in hand…I yearn to hear that scratch as words fly upon the page and maybe I’ll eke out a sentence or two… Sigh. I reckon it’s rooted in 2001, (I was 21) I made a poetry binder-book as I was particularly broke that Christmas and it was rather…flatly? received by friends and family alike. Which compounded my college professor’s opinion of my writing isn’t near as good as I feel it is- he actually suggested "I should write like" …an author whose book I honestly wouldn’t put in my bathroom for visitors. Sigh. I can accept that my writing isn’t for everyone-or even anyone- and cereberally I know the professor was wrong to say what he did, but damnit, he got to me. Flicked the pen right out of my hand. And then there’s times life is so ugly you don’t want a daily record of what’s going on. At least I don’t. But I need to express…am so grateful for this space, I don’t do social media, can’t picture ever engaging there again, which in itself makes me feel somewhat defective because most everyone else does– yeah, I am weird personified. Blessed? Choosing to believe so. Even if I am an island. Sláinte.

  4. What you said, "This “creative zone” is characterized by groundedness; curiosity and openness; a sense of safety; connection; mindfulness; compassion; and joy. When you hear someone talk about being “in the flow,” this is directly connected to the state of being to which I’m referring" hit my like a ton of bricks, I must say.
    It’s possible to live in the ‘flow or zone’ all the time, somehow. It’s a matter of learning to find the ‘balance state of being’ within ourselves. There are emotional muscles we know we never had or knew existed. It takes practice.
    After taking your class, daily journaling and reading your book, I believe that is what you are helping and supporting us to do …. to find and use our emotional muscles to continually live in the ‘flow’. Thank you!

  5. I’ve often said that our bodies will ask for what it needs in a whisper. If we listen and take appropriate action, problem resolved. If we do not listen, it will holler and often leave us feeling like crap. I suspect your 3 question journaling technique teaches us to better listen and connect with our own souls. I look forward to seeing where these prompts lead. Hope you feel better and get your energy back soon!

  6. I am an introvert and I learn towards the dreaded perfectionism when it comes to my creativity. I struggle to begin as I fear it will not look like I picture it in my mind. Both in writing and drawing. I am learning to let that go. Your 3 question journal e-book was awesome. I am going to begin to journal again using these 3 questions plus a few more I have seen that will spur a honest creative approach to journaling for me again. Thank you for sharing your gifts with all of us.

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