Creation For Creation’s Sake

I’ve been writing for most of my life. It’s the medium of creation that clicks with me and helps me parse through the ideas and thoughts and feelings in my head. But sometimes, the forces of life can suck the energy right out of you and destroy your will to create anything of real value.

At times, the more parameters set upon your writing projects by third-party forces, the more difficult it can be to get creative in a meaningful way. This is not to say that deadlines or structure or editors are unimportant to creation. However, writing in different spaces with different rules at play can be a refreshing experience for those that feel they’ve been pulled into the grind.

I know for myself that it’s nice to rediscover the joy of just creating something, to take a moment to focus on playing gracefully with a new idea. It doesn’t really matter how bad the idea is. As long as you just try your hardest and completely cast out any care in the world as to whether it’s good or not until you’re done. Even then, does it always have to matter?

One of my heroes, Kurt Vonnegut, authored several amazing works such as Slaughterhouse-Five, Cat’s Cradle, and a ton of short stories, The Euphio Question being my favorite (Mr. McCallum, my journalism teacher in high school gets the credit of introduction).

Like all great and successful writers of our time and times past, Vonnegut was always thinking about why humans did anything, how they ticked, what made them feel angry, happy, fulfilled, and empty. And Vonnegut had rules for himself when it came to writing. One of his rules, intertwined hilariously with the idea of purposely upsetting one’s parents, says a lot about what a writer should really be after.

“Go into the arts,” Vonnegut says. “I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward… You will have created something.”

Though I’m not sure Vonnegut, an author, truly disbelieved the arts’ potential as a fruitful career, his point is this: writing just to create a story, painting just to create art, this is the reasoning that allows for an environment in which a creator’s soul can truly blossom and flourish.

I like to think that we all have an image of the best versions of ourselves. Maybe there is a best version of you at work or a best version of you with family and friends. Giving yourself the opportunity to be aware of yourself and to create something, anything from what you find inside of you might just help elevate your skills and perhaps your enjoyment life in a general sense.

Re-energizing vs. Taking a Break

There are times when I feel that there is something missing in my writing. It usually happens after a long period of working consistently. I get tired out or feel uninspired by the world around me for a brief moment. People might call this writer’s block. Until recently, I felt that was the proper moment to take a break or walk away from the pen and paper and keyboard for a while.

Upon returning, however, I often found myself encountering the same vacant feeling I had from before. Ultimately, a break did nothing for me. I was still struggling to write anything that was worthy of my adoration or even acceptance… I then assumed the fetal position and cried. For I had been defeated.

Of course, I didn’t actually do that but the defeat that a writer can experience throughout the process of creating something is real. I set out to find a solution that would get my creative butt up off the floor and on to write my next glorious tale. There is, I found, a distinction that perhaps all of us should make between when it is time to take a break and when it is time to re-energize. Maybe people need to re-energize when they think they need to take a break. 

Creativity takes a lot of energy. If you’re unsuccessful at accessing the creative power within you, you can assume that there is a lack of energy available. “Is my time over?”, you ask. “Shall I give up on my dream here?”

Of course not. The key is to examine what’s causing your lack of focus or creative inspiration.

Sometimes, the structure-less, static-TV screen that is my brain can have me staring into my monitor for hours as I struggle to find even one iota of creative interest in the piece I’m currently working on. I’ll be thinking about other story ideas or daydreaming about new ones. This is still somewhat helpful as brainstorming is part of the process. However, those ideas have nothing to do with the story I might need to finish at the moment.

In this case, I like to intentionally set a small portion of time to go through all of these ideas, depending on the time available to me. Sometimes, trying to finish a piece while experiencing a back-up of new ideas can be an impediment to the product your working on at that moment. New ideas demand your attention for a reason. Something about each one of them feels important and takes your creative interest. Parsing through them may be just the thing you need to find the rhythm of and re-energize your will to complete your current project.

But what if you don’t have anything distracting you, no ideas or other projects taking up your head-space? If you are completely blank, then perhaps it’s time to look at other people’s work. I don’t mean plagiarize. Don’t do that. But, exposing yourself to what other’s are producing around you can re-introduce you to the revitalizing beauty that you are perhaps trying to create in your own work. 

There are of course times when a break is actually necessary. If you’re thinking about the taxes you have to do, picking up a family member, packing up for a trip, or even relationship issues, it might be time to divert energy to addressing life aspects that are dragging you down. You’ll never be able to fully realize the project you have before you if not fully committed to the subject matter. You can always come back to it later if you spend time ironing out the elements in your life that are, at that moment, barriers to your craft.

Next time you’re thinking about taking a break from your creative work, consider whether there are simpler ways to find the recently elusive creative groove. Because taking a break can feel costly and wasteful if it doesn’t garner the results you were hoping for.