The Curious Case of the Missing Creativity

Over the last couple years, I’ve noticed that something has been dwindling: my sense of creativity. The thing is, I don’t know whether it’s dying, taking an extended vacation, or just out for a very long lunch! And if I am indeed losing my creativity, how can I get it back?

It’s a rather curious problem to consider. Creativity has never struck me as something that I need to consciously cultivate — it’s just there, or in this case, it isn’t. I’d be walking or driving or even mowing the lawn and I’d come up with all these different things to write about, code up, or products to research. Sometimes I would even look forward to mowing the lawn or doing some other activity that didn’t require much brain-power because I knew I’d come up with some new scenes for whatever book I was working on.

writersblockI first noticed that this creative sense was starting to ebb a few years ago while writing “The Seed of Haman”, but chalked it up to having too much going on at the same time. I was on a long rotation in Production Support at work which just drains motivation after awhile. Also, I figured that juggling family, work, writing, and not getting enough sleep was finally catching up with me. Too many irons, not enough fire! But being both stubborn and motivated (or maybe just prideful!), I pressed on and kept at it.

Since then I’ve written several more books, but few of them have felt very “creative,” if that makes sense. Though others have told me they’re great, I haven’t really felt that way. There were creative and memorable scenes and everything, but they just sort of felt like they were “there” and not something I was really ecstatic about. Writers inherently KNOW when they’ve written something awesome and inspiring, like when the words literally flow like a river from the writer onto the page. The last book that felt like that was “Walks With Rich”, though that was more personal rather than creative. But recently, even that feels like it’s dwindling too, and I’m not quite sure how to get it back. Sometimes I’m not even sure I WANT it back. I started my twentieth book about six months ago (“Fountains of the Deep”) but set it aside after a couple chapters and haven’t quite picked it back up yet.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a creative person, whether it’s coding, writing, or tinkering with something. If I remember correctly, it began with an old Erector set, Lego’s sharper and more bendable grandfather. There was always something to be built, improved, or another problem to be solved. I could usually figure out a way to do it better, faster, or at least easier. As for writing, I was initially motivated by telling stories in a way that no one had ever told before. However, now that writing eBooks and self-publishing is so cheap and easy, it appears that thousands of others have the same thoughts, and often on the same topics!

Maybe my motivations have changed, which probably drove a significant chunk of my creativity more than I realize. A major driving force for writing my first book, “The Time of Jacob’s Trouble” was to see my name in print and to be able to tell a story that no one had really told before (at least not to my satisfaction). The same held true with the second, “Endeavor in Time”, and then third, “The Cell”. However, after the tenth book or so, that motivating factor began shrinking. Somewhere around that time, the eBook market exploded, which may have been another motivating factor: extra income and revenue streams. Needless to say, with more millions more books and more authors in the market, competition greatly increased and sales began decreasing.

algebraAnother factor is the huge change in my personal life (divorce), which may be sapping much of my creativity. The year leading up to the divorce and the several months since have been just emotionally draining. Though it could have been much (much!) worse, it was still exhausting. It’s one thing to feel like a single parent but quite another to actually BE a single parent. And now that my youngest is in public school and has homework most nights, her “agonies in algebra” usually drain whatever I have left after an already-long day. And the weekends? Those are usually spent going through the house and getting everything boxed up to be sold, donated, or thrown out later this spring. Cleaning out twenty years of junk is no small task!

To further add to the mix, right when things blew apart in my marriage eighteen months ago, we started ramping up on these new open-source technologies in preparation for a big software release that’s being released next month. Usually, we only have to learn one or two new pieces of technology and can then settle in for awhile, but not with this stuff. In Open-Source Land, “embracing change” isn’t merely a nice axiom, it’s a necessity! Literally everything has been in constant motion and there hasn’t felt like there’s really a firm foundation to build upon, at least until recently. The last eighteen months have been full of upheavals both personally and professionally, and somehow it feels like they’re linked together. Even professionally, I don’t feel all that creative or motivated like I used to, though others around me are (thank goodness!).

Perhaps I’m somehow associating this new product with all the drama in my personal life, and one has just sapped my interest and motivation in the other. One of the more frustrating things is when others at work come up with clever, elegant ideas to solve various problems, yet sometimes I don’t even seem to see what those problems are! Maybe I’ve been in the industry too long (~20 years) and ridden in too many of these rodeos known as software releases. It’s almost that feeling like I’ve already climbed that mountain several times and the fulfillment I was anticipating just wasn’t there — so how can I get all that excited about climbing yet another one? Same story, different mountain, even if it’s Mount Everest! 

Maybe this drought of personal creativity is nothing to really worry about, but the reason I mention it is because in the Information Age, creativity is vitally important in so many areas. Many of us who work with technology aren’t paid for our strength, stamina, or cleverness as much as for our creativity! As time goes on, more and more non-creative positions and jobs will be automated and be replaced by technology that is developed by people who are…creative! What’s a developer good for if they can no longer “develop”?

garden_of_eden

Maybe the source of my creativity — and everyone else’s — is my Creator. One of the many gifts He gives us is the gift of creativity. He gives but He also takes away for His purposes and His glory. Could it be that all these personal upheavals, this unsettledness, and this diminishing satisfaction from writing and such is God’s gentle way of nudging me to move in a different direction? Could it be that He has pruned a branch of my creativity so that other branches can be strengthened and nourished?

Ironically, even Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 12:12 that “Of the writing of books, there is no end… and much study is wearisome.” I couldn’t have said it better myself! A good observation about Solomon (the Preacher) in Ecclesiastes is that in pursuing all his own interests and “whatever his heart desired”, he became a very weary man. Solomon ended up hating life because all his work became grievous to him (Ecclesiastes 2:17), and I really don’t want that to happen to me.

Maybe it’s time for me to shift from working on mostly fiction to other subjects that are more applicable and beneficial to others, which was one of the reasons I began blogging more seriously last year. Maybe it’s time for me to break out of my comfort-zone a bit more (or perhaps even a lot more!) and try different things that are not all that abstract or comfortable. Perhaps it’s time for me to journey down other roads I haven’t really traveled down yet. I hadn’t really expected this multi-part “The Days of Noah Series” to turn into a one-hit wonder, but maybe that’s just how it goes.

Meanwhile, if anyone has some ideas or suggestions to how to get motivated with writing again, I’d love to hear them. And if you happen to have a little extra dose of that missing creativity to spare, please consider sending some my way!

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” — Colossians 3:23-24

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About Chris Hambleton

Chris resides in Denver, Colorado, where he is employed as a software developer and consultant. He has authored more than a dozen books, as well as developed several websites, software applications, and written software-related articles. His other interests include traveling, hiking, running, studying the Bible, reading American history and politics, and literally devouring good fiction books. Recently, he has been learning to enjoy classical music, playing the piano, and learning Hebrew.
This entry was posted in Books, God, Personal, transitions, Trust, Work, Writing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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