September 4th, 2022
So, here we are again. September has come, bearing reminders of what I have left to do. I pop in and out of here like I’m avoiding someone, and I realized I was avoiding myself, particularly my ambitions. I like to think that I made good use of my time away.
I rediscovered my love for reading and while I don’t read as fast or as much as I used to, I found the same comfort in reading that I always have. I was so happy to be reminded of my love for reading. I used to worry that I only enjoyed reading as a child because I could escape into another author’s world whenever I wanted. I worried that reading was only a coping mechanism for me, an activity that I turned to when I was running away from my own life. I was delighted to realize I do enjoy reading, now more so than I did as a child. Watching television and finding new shows to watch, as well as plan to rewatch later in the future, was something I enjoyed as well. I hadn’t realized how afraid I was to label these activities as methods to escape, and they still are, but they don’t feel like slipping away from life and ducking through a back door. They feel like a soothing cup of tea or a warm bowl of soup. Nourishing. They remind me of how much world there is out there.
So, with these new comforts safely within reach, my mind stretched and contracted like I was in labor. A bit confusing, I know, but with the stillness of watching TV and reading came an urge to be doing something. At first, it was uncomfortable. I felt like I was looking for something else in my life, like there was a path I needed to discover. Plainly speaking, my mind was waking up, and it was restless. The movies and fantastical tales still spoke to me, but I needed something else to occupy my mind. I realized I need to write again. I didn’t realize this at first. I thought my mind was going stagnant. Scrolling through Twitter and Youtube only helped me along so far.
I considered other ways to stimulate my mind, such as picking up Spanish again. I taught myself how to crochet over this past weekend, but it wasn’t enough. Just this morning, I looked at my stale Patreon and blog, realizing again it has been months since I updated the platforms. I do this every year: drop off the face of the Earth. I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m getting older – and I don’t mean this in a, “I’m so old!”. I mean, “I have so much to do and I’m not capturing any of it. I’m letting time slip me by and wondering why I have nothing to show for it.” Maybe “getting old” doesn’t quite suit this feeling.
After I graduated from SCAD, I struggled with the “keep working” mentality. SCAD students used to turned around big projects in two and three weeks in order to keep up with the curriculum. The creative process doesn’t work like this. We would begin and finish entire feature film screenplays in ten (10) weeks. That isn’t normal for most writers. You can see how working like this for years and suddenly being finished can take its toll. I collapsed, my brain collapsed, my self-discipline went straight to hell, and I would lay awake at night, wondering why I hadn’t written a word in two years.
There were sparks sometimes, small bursts of creativity that inspired stories like Echoes and Sins of the Sun, but they died off quickly, leaving me feeling like I was failing myself and my audience. I spoke with some of my fellow SCAD graduates and a few of them felt this way, too. Like they suddenly had no drive and could no longer motivate themselves. COVID had a big part to play with this, but going cold turkey after furiously writing was the one of the causes for my inactivity.
For a while, I wondered if I had fooled myself into thinking I could write, that maybe I wasn’t supposed to be a writer. I was worried that I had used the act of writing the same way I had used reading and watching TV: a way to escape my life. I considered that maybe writing wasn’t meant for me, and that I didn’t want to admit it to myself. I thought I had been lying to myself for my entire time at SCAD, and it took until June of this year to realize I hadn’t. In my search for more mental stimulation, I found that I wanted to create something. Anything.
I looked into pixel art games, intending to make some sort of click-based RPG game. I looked into creating a podcast and recalled how much writing needed to be done for it. Podcasts aren’t completely spontaneous, and I recoiled from this realization.
At one point, I thought to myself, “I want to make something that requires writing. Just writing. No coding. And I want to update it over the years. I want solid character backstories and complete worlds.”
I thought the answer was making an RPG game, but I didn’t want to learn how to code and I didn’t want to draw sprites. Pixel art was interesting to me, but I didn’t want to start from the bottom and take years to build a game. Then came my discovery: I wanted to write, preferably a book or a screenplay.
Basically, in corporate terms, I wanted to use my degree.
My feelings are more heartwarming and fuzzy than this. I want to write heart-wrenching stories. I want to share all of the ideas that came to me in the last few years. I want to revive my imagination and never let it sleep again. I kid you not, I thought I lost my imagination, like my Mind’s Eye had closed for good. The terrifying idea of this pushed me back to reading for enjoyment again, and then to finding shows I wanted to watch.
Something about the deliberate act of looking to please myself pushed me harder. I guess, in a way, sitting in the dark and wondering if I had chosen the right degree, helped me realize that I should enjoy my time alive. If that means I take a day to read, do it. If I need to check out that new show on Netflix for ten (10) minutes, then do it. And guess where that led me: to wanting to write for myself and remembering that good work takes time.
Fresh out of graduation, I wanted to make money. I wanted financial stability, and what do we all know? Don’t write to make money. Don’t make that your primary goal, and that was part of what killed my creativity, too. I kept living according to that ten (10) week quarter system: push out as much as you can so you can eventually make money.
I wasn’t enjoying myself anymore. I wasn’t nurturing my creativity by enjoying the art around me, and I wasn’t exercising my own writing muscles. They atrophied while I agonized over my life decisions. I still wanted to write, but I didn’t have any fuel. I could see where I wanted to go, but I didn’t have a map or a flashlight, just a sparkly world in my head that couldn’t shine brighter than the darkness of my doubt. Now, I know I was doing it to myself.
So, throw in COVID, a creative collapse, and the world being shut down, you get me: a writer paralyzed by their own ambition and so afraid to fail that they never write again. Once I started feeding myself again, things began to shift for the better. The sun rose and I could see where I was, and I’m grateful for that. I am forever grateful to other artists and their ability to ignore their own doubt and to do the damn thing. Enjoying their work reminded me of my own.
If you’re in a runt, turn to art. Turn to music. It will awaken your muse and you’ll remember what your driving force is, like I did. _