The price you pay for a creative gift is that you have to do it.
I think there are fewer people able to create — actually create, if not ex nihilo at least with decent innovation — than we think of.
I’ll plead guilt to the fact that my creation isn’t ex-nihilo. I’ve written Shakespeare fan fic and Jane Austen fanfic, and I could say that Darkship Thieves isn’t Heinlein fanfic, but then I’d be a liar.
There is less rooted, more purely me stuff coming, because I’m rewriting the universes I created in my teens, when I was young and fearless.
But even the soit-disant fanfic is “creative” in the sense that there’s a lot of me there, and no one else could really write it.
It might seem to you that creation is normal, because we tend to run in packs of our kind. For you to understand how rare it is, you might have to go back to elementary school or middle school.
Remember when you were asked to write an original story? 9 out of ten kids would just rewrite whatever the class had read most recently, or whatever was offered as an example. Actually more like 19 of 20 kids, so that your stuff, no matter how trite you thought it, would end up held up as a shining example.
Believe it or not, and you probably don’t, no matter how small you think your ability to create, it is rare, and it makes you a rare and shining unicorn.
And the price of it is that you have to do it. You feel driven to it. (You know exactly what I’m talking about.)
You might go through months you don’t write or draw or create, but little by little you start feeling…. ill. A malaise of the soul. It’s like life becomes tasteless, like the essence is drained out of it.
Jordan Peterson says that a creative person who stops creating starts dying inside.
He’s not wrong. I’ve felt it in myself (yeah, not nearly enough in recent years.) And I’ve observed in other people.
A friend who works with the dying says in a way we’re all like those mythical tribesmen who, once cursed, decide they’re dying and therefore do. She says she has seen people survive who should not be alive in any sane world. And she’s seen people with not much wrong with them, just give up and die.
I’ve seen creatives who stop creating, and even if they live for many years, part of them dies. Turns off. Stops working.
I know, I know, until you live from writing (or art) and sometimes even then, time for creating is hard to find; our health is often indifferent; there are emergencies that consume us.
But in the end none of that matters. If you’re a creative, you have to create. The gift and the price are the same. The only other choice is death, or death-in-life.
So make time, push yourself. Even a very little a day adds to a lot.
The life you save might be your own.