Not that I’ve had time to indulge recently, but I look back upon the days when I could spend several weeks in pursuit of nothing in particular with great fondness.
Sometimes, when you’re stuck in a rut and feeling about as dull as unpolished lead, just doing something mindlessly creative is the best escape. I discovered this by accident many years ago when suffering from a massive case of writer’s block. I turned to crafts. Don’t ask me where the wild hair came from, but I decided that what my house really needed was a diorama of a Japanese village. Off to the craft store I went for rice paper scraps, sticks, paint and glue. Then I spent a few weeks building mah village. I never finished the damned thing, but it graces one of my bookshelves well enough, and Misha seems to enjoy it, which is really all that matters:
You’ll note that it’s standing in a small box of sand. That is one o’ my patented Zen Gardens, in fact. They’re another thing I build when I’m feeling a little non-creative. I decorate them with rocks taken from interesting places I’ve been. I believe most of the rocks in these two came from Flagstaff, with maybe one or two from the California coast. I guess my next project should be marking the rocks with their damned origins.
One day, hopefully before she dies or is too old to see it, me mum will be getting a ballerina doll. As much as I like building when I’m blocked, I like sewing by hand, too. I suck at it. It takes flipping forever. But I like figuring out ways to compensate for my complete lack of textile talent, and for a while there I could sew beads onto petal-shaped pieces of fabric in a nice vine pattern like nobody’s business. And Mom will love it no matter how much it sucks – she’s my mom.
My other great love which I’m no good at is drawing. I haven’t had the opportunity to bust out the Wacom tablet lately, but when I do, I can lose myself for hours in trying to force my paltry skills to achieve the desired results. Someday, eventually, I’ll have brilliant relief maps of my worlds put together – or so I like to think. I’ve at least managed to get Cariicedraas somewhat done:
The best thing about all of this nonsense is what it leads to: a veritable flood of creativity. I get so focused for so long on the minutiae of colors and textures and trying things every-which-way until they work that my subconscious mind gets a chance to work without the fetters of my dreaded Inner Editor. Every time I’ve spent a few weeks doing creative things that have not that much to do with writing, I’ve ended up inspired. I think it has something to do with taking the pressure off, and something more to do with thinking in entirely different ways. I’ve noticed that theme with a lot of people who have to think their way to solutions, including scientists: they had their flash of brilliant insight after they gave up and started playing with other things.
So if you don’t already, the next time you’re stuck, go play. Indulge in your favorite creative wastes of time. You can tell people honestly that you’re hard at work.