Paying The Price

The price you pay for a creative gift is that you have to do it.

No. Seriously.

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.

27 comments

  1. I can tell when I haven’t been creative in a long time. My daydreaming gadget and my “why the f(YAY!)k did you write/draw/shoot it this way?” media complaint gadget go from off to Jeremey Clarkson “MORE POWER!” levels.

    I can’t stop it. Not for long. Not without a lot of pain.

  2. 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.

    :laughs: Got the opposite.
    Was part of a Big Special Trip to a Real College for a Creative Writing Class.

    We were to write out a scene to discuss.

    Mine was a sort of info-dump in the driver’s seat of a small spaceship–hadn’t seen Spaceballs yet, but a space Winnebago totally would’ve matched the vibe.

    ….I got no feedback other than the grammar was good.

    Picture wide eyed shock at obvious fiction for creative writing, although at the time I assumed my writing was just that bad. The folks doing the class were very nice English major types.

    The stuff that was writer-but-in-The-Big-City got feedback and praise that actually involved something to do with writing.
    Which now I recognize as 70s feminist stylistic knockoffs of some of Hemmingway’s more boring stuff.

    1. yeah, the ‘kids’ in my college creative writing class- at a film school- were blown away by how me and the other 30something could write on a 15 minute timed exercise

      1. For some people it does. Back when the Black Dog was pacing me far more closely, I found that I could write out things that helped shoo him a little farther away. I later burned those writings, literally, but it gave me a place to say what I needed to in order to get a little distance and shelter.

  3. I could say that Darkship Thieves isn’t Heinlein fanfic, but then I’d be a liar.

    Heinlein-inspired, closely inspired, I’ll give you. Fanfic, nope, because I can’t tell who the characters are as opposed to 50 Shades where you can tell the changed names.

    Is Thena Friday or PeeWee or Podkayne or even Gloria (which for some reason is who I thought of first when you said it was Heinlein fanfic).

    A malaise of the soul. It’s like life becomes tasteless, like the essence is drained out of it.

    I can’t say I have felt particularly driven to create, but I recognize this as one of the features of the depression I can only seem to keep at bay by being angry.

    And, yeah, writing does seem to ease it somewhat, although things auxillary to writing can make depression worse.

  4. My college creative writing teacher pulled me aside and asked me if I was suicidal. I said, no, I was fine, I was just writing a story. I guess there was enough emotion there that it seemed pretty real…I do appreciate that she took time to ask. But, I was very confused!

    1. That’s funny! Last year, I wrote a short excerpt of something I was working on, where the protagonist was being stalked by someone. When my sister read it, she asked if I was OK.
      I told her it was fiction – I’m not sure that she accepted it.

  5. You don’t know how much I wish this post was not true. Well, ain’t that a convoluted sentence. Every time I walk away from it. I come back, yearning and longing for the putting down the stories or art. ::sigh:: I wish I could just consume product. But creativity really is a siren call.

  6. I will not claim to have a gift in this area, but I will say that the stories come anyway, whether I write them down or not.

    Writing them down has a couple of benefits. First, I feel better because now the story is alive. I made something real. The second is now I get new stories instead of the same one over and over. I make them real and now they live on their own, not just in my mind.

    Plus I make a couple of bucks. Not a bad deal. ~:D

  7. > 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.

    Well. Crap.

    Why do you have to write things that target me so accurately? Entertainment gets less entertaining, you get the feeling you should be doing something you’re not, time is being wasted . . . oh. Now the complimentary post is needed on “You need to create but dammit it’s going to be Hard Work and even worse because your creative brain tools rust *fast*”

  8. I wrote an encounter with aliens in the cornfield behind by house when I was a pre-teen. Still have that in my “old writings” box, never shown to anyone. Since then, that box has gotten essays (sometimes I’ve had to write stuff down when what I’d been told deviated really far from reality) and the occasional scene or story idea. But most of my fic didn’t start until I dropped out to raise our daughter, with fanfic when I was in my fifties. I don’t know if I fit here. I don’t get story ideas so much as “how do I solve this problem?” which has either an essay or a fictional answer.

    And I also seem to get by on any occupation that allows me to successfully problem solve. Raising a daughter sort of did that, except the “successful” part is not as certain as other kinds of problem solving. I was in the middle of a big depression, though, when I started fanfic. And another one, caused by the covidiocy, that got me to take it up again.

  9. Yeah, now that you mention it, I’ve always had one or two day-dream stories going for as long as I can remember. Didn’t write many of them down, until I started with fanfic. And I hardly ever finished any. Can’t remember them anymore either.

    1. Fanfic is a really good gateway to actually writing those daydreams down– it skips the translation issues. YMMV, etc.

      I’ve noticed that the in-my-head stories where I tried to write stuff down in high school, when I compare it to what I’m writing now, I can recognize some of the themes.
      …and see improvement. 😀

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