Sunday, May 2, 2010

A Few Thoughts on Creating

I find it much easier to start a project than to see it through. I don't think anybody maintains enthusiasm through the whole of a large undertaking, but it seems to be my shortcoming more than many. It's got to have something to do with my preference for ideas: I like the new. I like working out the interactions in a complex system. I like mapping a story arc, or drawing a mock-up. Once that part is done, though, and it's time to turn ideas into realities, I start losing focus. The siren songs of new ideas beckon.

Hence two weeks without a new post.

It's easy to be productive when you've got the enthusiasm for it. Some blog posts stream effortlessly through my fingers and into the electronic aether. But sometimes it has to be forced out. It's a phenomena I don't really understand. It's easy to run out of creative juices in any activity. Sometimes you just stare at a blank sheet of paper, or type away at code despite your brain pleading for television or a walk. Getting away from it, playing a video game or reading a book can help. But consuming media just as often leaves me more lethargic and uninterested than ever.

I feel obligated to create things in a way I don't exactly understand. Having a talent feels like an injunction to use it. The ephemeral nature of life pushes and pulls in this: in the brief time I have on Earth, shouldn't I do something impressive with it? But at the same time another voice asks: with the brief time I have, shouldn't I be enjoying life?

Which is perhaps the core of it: creative activities should be enjoyable. The brain is a massively parallel machine that makes countless evaluations in the process of creating. What topics to move on to? Which to cut? What's the most effective placement of the object in a sentence? Are there too many adverbs? But without enthusiasm, threads of the brain get distracted or quiet. Less brain mass is focused on the creation, and the creation suffers for it. And it seems that maintaining this divided attention, the conscious realm pushing out sentences but the unconscious dallying on other topics, drains us.

My brain is grasping for a concluding idea, something to wrap this all up, some larger context these thoughts have fit into. But there isn't anything obvious coming to mind. Creating is hard. Motivation is hard. Thinking about either too deeply gets into weird existential questions that haven't ever been very helpful to me in creating the motivation. But perhaps the key is that while the creative tides ebb, they rise as well. My motivation for blogging, for writing, for programming have all been weak lately, but that's just one phase in a larger creative cycle. I'm blogging again, after all.

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