Is there a limit to creativity?
I’ve been asking myself that lately. I haven’t written anything in quite a while – other than a few very short practice pieces, it’s been a slow year. In fact, it’s been just over a year since I published my book, Ten at the Wedding, and since then I’m not sure I’ve really “finished” a short story. Just lots of ideas that I don’t seem to have time to follow up on.
But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been being creative. I’ve been doing lots of crafting and sewing. I’ve been designing websites in my day job as a WordPress developer, which for me is a creative endeavour. In my role as a Girl Guide leader, I’ve been inventing games and designing science experiments and planning theme nights.
It’s rewarding, and I like it, but I find it takes away from my ability to write. It’s like I have a finite amount of creativity in me – or at least, a finite amount of time to be creative – and that’s been funneled into other projects right now.
To write, I need both time, but also space. I need the mental area to dream, to make my writing project the only exciting thing in my mind right then. If other creative projects are also on the go, they distract me like shiny objects for a magpie.
It’s been so long now since I made time and space for storytelling that I started to worry that I’d lost it, and maybe would never write anything again. In fact, I was so worried that I was afraid to try.
So this week I forced myself to enter a contest. Contests for me are like Writing First Principles. They are the thing that got me into fiction in the first place. I respond really well to a) having a deadline and b) having a general guideline to follow, like a theme and word count. Given those two things, I WILL write. It will push the other shiny objects out of my head and make the space it needs.
I’m not gonna lie – it was hard. I hated everything I wrote – so much so that I threw out my first story completely and wrote a second. Then, I threw out that second one and wrote a third.
Then I went back to the first one and edited it until I could tolerate it, a little, and sent it in.
The thing is – I spent this week writing not one, not two, but THREE stories. They are definitely not the best thing I have ever written. They might even be the WORST things I’ve ever written. But by the end of the week I felt a kind of groove returning. The feeling of, Oh Right, I DO know how to do this.
I am, in fact, still a writer. It’s really good to know.
Do you worry when you take time away from writing? How do you find your way back?