Creativity as Rest

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Part 1: The Writer Who Doesn’t Write

Today is a rainy and cold day. In the past three days the temperature has dropped 40 degrees, which means that I have been desperately trying to transition with great difficulty. Like many creative type people, the grey, rainy days make me want to curl up with a cup of tea and read or write or make.

It has been so long since I have felt creative. Specifically it has felt so long since I have felt creative around writing or creating fiction, which used to be something that was constant for me. When I was ten I wrote a novel that was close to 500 pages long. In high school I drafted a novel I actually thought I would submit for publication. Creative writing has been a part of my identity, my mental health care, and my self-expression for years.

And yet I can’t remember the last time I wrote a story.

There’s a tension that I feel so often: I am tired. I am tired all day every day. I can’t remember the last time I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep if I just closed my eyes. I struggle to pull the words out for the work I have to do. It’s no surprise to me that I haven’t had the excess to pour out into creativity.

And yet.

Every week and month that I go without trying to describe the pillowy soft fog outside my window or the taste of the air when it’s damp and the summer is melting through my fingers no matter how hard I try to hold it…I get more exhausted.

One of the things that I have spent years trying to articulate to others and to myself is the need for many kinds of rest. There is the rest of literal sleep. There is rest that comes from turning off your brain and being quiet. There is rest that comes from being with people who do not judge you. And there is rest that comes from doing the things you’re passionate about. The things that make you feel creative: and I do mean¬†creative. Building something, whether it’s a story or a chair feeds some deep human needs and in my experience fills us up.

I have felt so empty.

Enter Dungeons and Dragons.

Part 2: The Lonely Creator

Writing is a solitary activity. The writer is struck by some kind of inspiration and the story has to get out. The writer is an observer and notices things that others don’t, finds inspiration for their work.

These are some of the lies I’ve been told about writing.

Let’s be clear here: writing is a process of connecting with other people. Language exists only between two people. The idea that writing and creativity are done in isolation is fucking weird.

I was approached a few weeks ago about the possibility of joining a new Dungeons and Dragons campaign. I love D&D, and I am always up for it, but it wasn’t until I started to hear about the setting and the world that a whole mess of things clicked together for me: I can’t create out of nothing, alone, sitting in the dark and staring out a window like some angsty teenager.

Creativity for me is play. I felt something come awake in me that had been sleeping for so long. I was suddenly writing a backstory and building a Pinterest board and falling in love with my character. Someone had just tossed me the ball and I wanted to be a part of this game. I felt so full.

I’ve been feeling for so long as if I am not as creative anymore: I’m too tired or too overworked. But maybe I just needed someone to play with. I just needed someone to point me in a direction or give me a prompt.

I’ve missed it so much.

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