I recently read an interesting article about a study of narcissism and creativity. The correlation theorized by the study is that narcissism breeds an elevated belief in one’s own creativity. I’m still unsure about how I relate to this article personally, but it did set me to thinking about my own creativity… and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind for a while.
Am I narcissistic? There are quite a few people in my life that would answer that question with a resounding “yes.” I’ve realized this… I do present a rather alpha-male personality on most occasions that could be read as narcissism. The interesting part though, internally, is that this is generally a forced personality. I rarely have a positive outlook on myself. I’m not saying I’m self-loathing, rather, I just don’t think too highly of myself. The thing is… I constantly wonder if the deflated view of myself is a result of my narcissistic tendencies. In other words… do I think so highly of myself that I’m too hard on myself? Yeah… that’s a friggin’ mind-trap that’s easy to fall into and difficult to climb out of.
As I’ve been pondering this over the last month, I’ve come to a few conclusions. Mainly, that I’m just not good at being creative. If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know very well that I have many creative outlets… so it might come as a surprise for me to announce that I have difficulty with being creative. Please note, however, that I am not saying that I’m not creative… just that I’m not good at being creative.
Outlet #1 – This Site
Writing this very article is a creative outlet. Maintaining this site, both in design and content is a way for me to share my thoughts and creations with the world. I absolutely love writing articles like this one and hearing feedback from others. I love writing about my game design process and the industry I’m so fervently trying to be a part of.
Outlet #2 – Game Design
Duh. Game design is a big part of my creative process. It may be my favorite outlet… I’m really not sure. In the past month I’ve designed two games, both of which happened in a flurry of creative inspiration. Granted, they are both light games which both achieve balance through symmetrical play as opposed to perfect game balance, but still, they are two new games that I’ve produced in a short period. They still need a bit of refining and artwork, but that’s coming along.
Outlet #3 – Art and Graphic Design
I like drawing. I know I’m not good at it, but I still enjoy doing it. I also enjoy graphic design… I still don’t think I’m great at it, but I’d like to believe I’m better than average and I’m always striving to improve. My Twitter friends have been great in helping me on this adventure and I’m fortunate enough to have befriended some excellent graphic designers that have critiqued my work.
Outlet #4 – Woodworking (and Other Crafts)
I like to make things… anything. I’m a craftsman in all senses of the word. Sitting down with my girls, a pair of scissors, and various craft supplies is one of my favorite things in the world. I just like making things… but woodworking is exceptionally rewarding because I get to make something functional and beautiful. Lately my focus has been on furnishing my home, but I enjoy making just about anything really.
Outlet #5 – Poetry
This isn’t something that I share too often, but I love writing poetry. Like many of my other hobbies, I don’t believe I’m all that great at it, but I enjoy it. I’ve used poetry as therapy for over 20 years. I sometimes write about my personal feelings as a sort of journaling… other times I write about mild fantasy or maybe even prophecy. It’s a very personal craft and I rarely let others read my work… but you know what, in the spirit of sharing, here’s something I wrote recently:
A young boy,
lost in himself, lies
…on his bed.
…to everyone else.
He doesn’t understand the consequences.
He finds Soul.
He doesn’t understand
with everything he thinks and believes.
Soul shows him.
but doesn’t explain
The boy guesses
incorrectly that Soul is correct.
With the hurt
…to everyone else.
He faces unknown
beginnings that could be endings.
If he ends
himself, what would become
He doesn’t have
and he never will, if he ends.
The problem with having this many outlets of creativity is ego. I feel like I should always be doing these things. I feel like I’m losing myself if I’m not constantly pursuing one of these hobbies. The problem is, I’m just not that creative… and trying to force myself to create leads to emotions I don’t enjoy having and really terrible products.
Writing – As mentioned above, I love writing for this site. I love providing quality content that people can learn from or connect with. I love getting responses from my audience and engaging with others in discussions about my thoughts. I would love to write multiple articles a week and I’m sure that I have enough topics to cover to last me for a few years of that. The problem is, I’m rarely inspired to do so and when I try to sit down and force myself to write, I end up on Reddit or playing a video game on my phone and it takes me days to write a simple article that would take me minutes if I was actually inspired to write it.
Game Design – It’s no secret that I love making games and sharing them with the world. This year I made a serious effort to find a publisher for a few of my projects. That adventure may yet prove to be successful… but I hated it. There, I said it. I hated it. All of it. I hated thinking about this hobby like a job. I hated thinking about my games in terms of “is this publishable.” That’s not why I do this and that’s not what I want from this. In the past month I’ve designed two games. Neither of them are publisher worthy, but they are my games. They are good games. I’m very proud of them… but they cater to a severely stunted market segment in an already niche market. I don’t care. I’m going to finish them, I’m going to make print and play files available for them, and I’m going to sell them on thegamecrafter.com to the 6 of you that believe in me… and I’ll be damn satisfied with that.
Art and Graphic Design – Sometimes I enjoy the layout and graphic design part of game design more than designing the actual games. Game design is hard. Graphic design is fun. The good news is that often, doing graphic design for a game keeps me interested in the game enough to actually work on it. The problem is, I don’t always have games that need graphic design or art… so sometimes I solicit others for things to draw. That can be satisfying… but mostly because it’s non-creative. I’m relying on them to be creative and tell me what to make and I just make it. It’s a highly manual duty at that point.
Woodworking – I love menial labor… and building anything out of wood is 95% menial labor. If you want to do it right… to do it perfect… you could spend countless hours sanding and buffing your creations to perfection. That part mostly bores me. The creative part is designing the piece and crafting it. Let’s be honest, however, I can only build so much furniture before my house is impassible and it’s not cheap either. Wood can be expensive, but the tools to create these things can be outrageous.
Poetry – Poetry is easy because it’s for me, so I don’t have to care if it’s good or not. It’s just a method for me to express my thoughts in a tangible form. The problem is, I don’t write good poetry when it doesn’t come from emotion. It’s not something I can just sit down and do. It very much requires me to be inspired by a subject or feeling.
What this all leads too is burnout. Like everyone else on this planet I have periods of extreme inactivity in my life. I have emotional tides just like you… and sometimes mine are severe. My emotional tides crush my creativity because they destroy my inspiration. One thing I’ve learned about myself over the years is that I am only creative when I want to be… and unfortunately for me, I’m not in control of it. I cannot sit down and force myself to do any of these hobbies and appreciate the outcome. Most of the time I cannot sit down and force these out at all because I end up procrastinating indefinitely.
I’m not good at creativity because I can’t choose when I get to be creative.
It just happens. I built a Christmas present for my in-laws yesterday and received a tremendous response. People seem to be amazed at my productivity sometimes, but fortunately for them, they don’t get to see behind the curtains. You see, that project has been sitting on my refrigerator for months. The lettering is a vinyl decal that Jayme had ordered many months back. Start to finish, I had about an hour and a half in the project (not including drying time) and I could have completed it on any given day in the past 2 months… but I didn’t. I completed it yesterday. Why? I don’t know… but for some reason, I had the inspiration to get it done.
I wish there was a magic pill we could all take to harness this inspiration. Spoiler alert: there’s not. We are all at the mercy of it in some form or another. What most people see as my productivity is actually a result of my own unique method of dealing with my creativity and procrastination:
I take on more projects and hobbies than I can ever hope to finish so that I’m always procrastinating on one thing by completing another.
…and in writing this mostly-hollow article, I’ve effectively stroked my ego by showing all the ways I’m not creative by showing you just how creative I am. This month has been weird for me.