Creativity is an Adventure (And Adventures Are Boring Sometimes)
It's been awhile since I've been able to churn out more than a couple of incomplete sentences. There's been something in the air, that's my guess. Or it's writer's block. Or it's laziness. Both, maybe. God, speaking of incomplete sentences.
The point is, for whatever reason, it's been hard to get any writing in. Then the anxiety hits. I tell myself that I have to write, that I have to get articles out, that I have to keep editing, keep researching, keep creating! It becomes a desperate knot in my stomach, and I don't want to look at a blank document because I feel it won't ever get filled in.
This is where the difference is made between someone who wants to keep doing this and try to make an actual living out of it, and someone who makes it a hobby, an outlet. Not that there's anything wrong with either, it's just, what do I want? What role is writing going to play in my life? I want it to be something more than just a hobby; I know that much.
So, the anxiety is necessary? That can't be right either.
After a couple of months of this, I realized it was time to go back to square one. For me, that's reading The Hobbit. It's everything that has inspired me to write, and the surge of nostalgia for lazy afternoons of reading raises a shield against that anxiety.
It was sometime during the dwarf's song about dungeons deep and caverns old, when Bilbo begins longing for adventure, a sword at his side instead of a walking stick, and braving the dark hallways of long forgotten ruins, when I got to thinking.
I realized this feeling was much like creativity, or at least my own interaction with it. There's so much time spent thinking about the creative projects that I want to do, but imagining them and being on the journey are two different things. Envisioning what you want is an important step, don't get me wrong. If Bilbo didn't have that surge of longing, even for that brief moment, then he may have never run out his front door.
Every step of the journey has purpose, even the mundane ones, even the boring ones, even the ones that don't seem to get any work done. As long as you get back on the path, the journey is never in danger of ending.
Think of all those moments we don't get to see in a story. How many of the days that Bilbo and Dwarves are out on their adventure that was too boring for Tolkien to mention? There were plenty of days that passed that were simply walk, keep walking, eat a bit, more walking, camp and do it again tomorrow. It's tedious and completely necessary to reach the destination.
That's the part about doing what you are passionate about that is the most difficult. The exciting parts of the adventure, even when things seem uncertain at times, are easy to imagine yourself doing. The book sales, the positive comments on your latest drawing you shared, the emails about a company wanting to advertise on your podcast; these are all a part of the fun adventure you have dreamed about being on.
The laborious days of hiking and nothing exciting are also a part of that adventure. It's getting through those days and then overcoming the temptation to stay in Rivendell forever that makes creativity more than just a thing to do on the side. Rivendell, of course, is the part of the adventure where there's rest and happiness, even a little laziness. There's plenty of talk about adventure, past and present, but the journey has come to a stop. The next step needs to be taken. It's another very important part of the journey, but not the destination.
Right now I've been sitting in Rivendell content and doing nothing. I was writing two articles a week, keeping up with email newsletters, editing and recording a podcast, editing a book, writing short stories, running on all cylinders, all on top of a full-time job in a new state I never thought I would be living in. I was Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli on the trail of literary Uruk-hai determined to not let them out of my reach. Then I rested in the Golden Halls of Rohan way the hell too long, and I don't know how to get back on the trail. Which is simple really, it's one little step followed by another. It's getting up and walking, walking some more, then making camp, then doing it again tomorrow.
It's the part of the adventure that's necessary, but mundane, and I have to keep going. That's the creative process. After all, there are dragons at the other end of this path and, according to Tolkien, “It simply isn't an adventure worth telling if there aren't any dragons.”