Friday, March 22, 2019

On Putting a Cap on Your Creativity

I've loved getting obsessed with my story ideas. It's productive and inspiring to be in love with your story, but a couple years ago this creative rush stopped happening to me and it was entirely my own doing. After that long period of creative suppression, I'm finally getting back into that creative flow again. Here's what happened:

Many a writer across the internet talks about how they have so many ideas at once that they're overwhelmed or how ideas for their stories keep up them up at night. Since as long as I can remember I've had this happen to me. I really rode that creativity train and my book ideas flourished. 

When I was younger I would go back in forth from trying to sleep to feverishly writing ideas down in a notepad next to my bed. As a teen, I would call my best friend at lunchtime nearly every day and tell her about all of the ideas I'd come up with and brainstorm. When I first came up with my ideas for Red Hood I was taking down ideas on scraps of paper meant for votes for flavor combinations at the frozen yogurt place I worked, which I would then hide from my boss in my apron. Then when I got a chance to sit down and write the ideas would just come out since I'd already thought out many of them.

But then I got older. 

Writing down ideas at work was distracting me from my job and I had bosses that hovered over me. Keeping myself up at night was taking a toll on me as I'd get exhausted from days of working with lack of sleep. With rejections from publisher after publisher and agent after agent and working long days at jobs I didn't even like stretching over years, taking those little creative risks seemed to lose their worth. So I stopped thinking of ideas at work and thought about other things, and I did the same at night before I went to sleep. And I became more focused at work and could get to sleep faster. I'd catch myself starting to think about some idea then I'd grab the idea and metaphorically shove it in a jar and bury it deep within myself until eventually, I'd stowed nearly all of my creativity that made me fall in love with my stories. 

After these years all of these jars started piling up and gathering dust. Coming up with ideas for my stories started becoming harder and harder. I trained my brain to get in the habit of staying away from getting obsessed with my stories and it really hurt me creatively. Writing became increasingly difficult because it's like my brain forgot how to do any pre-writing. Plotting helped yes, but it felt rigid compared to the enthusiasm I used to have before. I was working hard and getting more sleep, but I felt stale because I was making myself stay away from a frame of mind I thrived in.

After I got my agent in January, I felt like it was worth opening myself up again to the creative flow and it took a few weeks, but I feel like I've found a good balance between letting my creativity flow and then also controlling it. On nights when I don't have to get up early, I let it take its course or during slow periods at work. I'm feeling myself fall in love with my stories again and in result I'm connecting to my characters and world even more than before. Perhaps I should have sought this balance earlier. That probably would have saved me a lot of trouble. 

I've wondered if anyone else has dealt with this since I've never seen anyone talk about it. Maybe this is unique. Maybe it isn't. 

Have you struggled with this? Did you find a solution? What are your thoughts?

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