When not having creative energy isn’t a moral failure

I just read this blog post by Neil Gaiman.

He’s a Real Author, and he’s been very busy, and then he’s been very brain-dead.

His brain-dead is (morbidly?) reassuring to me. I’m an author, and I have a full time job, and I run a small business, and I have health issues, and I have a committed relationship that requires intentional effort to maintain (as any good relationship does).

It’s just lovely to have a reminder that it’s normal to have only so much capacity. Creative people create less when their mental energy is used up. When my day job requires creativity, I have less available for personal projects.

I always have a vague belief that if I cared more, I would create more. That if I were more diligent, I would sit and write every day like they tell you to.

I remember how I allow myself to get sucked into things that aren’t worth my time, like fascinating podcasts when I should be working, or brain-dead games on my phone when my brain isn’t working.

But.

But I spend a lot of mental energy on my day job, and on the other things I must do, and it’s not a moral failure that I don’t write every day. It’s just a fact of time and energy. It’s normal.

I just read Swordheart, by T. Kingfisher1, set in the same world as her Clockwork Boys duology, but it’s about normal life things (and nearly being eaten by magical sky-jellyfish) rather than being about saving the world. I loved it so much.

I tell you this because: I want to be T. Kingfisher when I grow up. I keep ruminating about how to become an author, a person who has hours every day to be creative and inspired, who also isn’t broke. Make it important now. Wake up early2. Write every day. But right now, I don’t have the energy to spend being creative; I’m spending most of my energy in keeping normal life going, eating healthy food, getting exercise more often than never.

Neil Gaiman reminded me that it’s ok to be an uncreative creative person. It’s normal to have physical limits. It’s not a moral failure when I don’t write every day… or even every week3.

Do you have times when you can’t be creative? How do you handle it? How do you give yourself permission to be where you are?


1 It’s a lovely silly book about a woman who doesn’t know her own value, having to fight for her own value, and developing friends who support her exactly the way she is. I loved it so much, you should read it.

2 I hate this advice. Mornings are my nemesis.

3 Not for nothing, I’ve been writing blog posts. That’s creation, even if it doesn’t feel like “creativity”. Maybe my definitions are just wrong.

I feel like I’m getting the hang of talking to my brain

Dear BrainBy the way, guys.  Analytical mind, if you’re poking around, you may, but please keep your opinions to yourself.  We are safe here and don’t need to be correct or perfect.  I promise!  Muse, I’m here and ready to play!

An even more brief letter to my brain

Dear BrainOk, analytical mind.  You’re awesome, and you aren’t needed here right now.  You can come back after we put the notebook down.  Heya, Muse, you still here?  Let’s play!

A brief letter to my brain

Dear BrainAnalytical Mind, if you’re here, now is a good time for you to take a break.  We’re good, we’re safe, we need to just be for a while.  You can come back later, after we leave this coffee shop.

And Muse, if you want to come out now, I’m here, I’m listening, and I’m happy to work on any story you want.  I have a small preference for the [redacted] story.

Thanks, guys!

– Me

I write another letter to my brain

Dear MuseDear Muse,

I know our analytical mind can be a bit overbearing.  It can’t help itself, it’s been this way for years and is still trying to learn how to be gentler.  Please don’t take its antics seriously.  We’re all learning how to be together.  We’ll get better.  Please don’t give up on us too quickly.  Also, if you can find a way to tell me when we’re being too analytical, just like you’ll tell me when you have a great idea, then I promise I’ll try to listen and respond appropriately.  I want to build you a nice safe sandbox, and I also want to work towards making money.  Please help me out.

Thanks!

– Me

 

I write letters to my brain

Dear Analytical Mind

Dear Analytical Mind,

Please don’t judge the first output of my Muse.  Don’t hold her up to any expectations.  We should nurture her and lure her hear with treats, give her a nice sandbox to play in.  Whatever happens is what happens and shall not be expected or demanded.  We can judge our ability to construct the sandbox.  We can (later) judge the output of the sandbox with the goal of making it better, i.e. edit.  But only after she has left and her feelings won’t be hurt.  She’s sensitive and we love her and want her to be happy.

Sincerely,

Me