the creative death cycle

06 Apr

I’ve always been a ‘creative type’.  Often I use this as a sort of disclaimer when I meet people, or to exclude myself from performing strenuous tasks.  Can I lift these heavy boxes?  Can I balance our budget?  Can I tally our sales for the month?

No, you guys.  I’m a creative type.

Many creative types are able to turn their affliction into something positive, but I’m ultimately tripped up by what I call the Creative Death Cycle.  The Creative Death Cycle can apply to every project I’ve undertaken, whether it be the series of portraits I plan to draw, the comics I tell myself I’ll post every day, or that book of short stories that I know will be a hit.  Even this blog counts, as you can see from the spates of slow posting.

It goes something like this.

Phase One:

I come up with an idea.  It’s a great idea.  A marvelous idea!  I’m surprised that by having this idea, I have not shattered the universe itself.  Nobody ever has or ever will have an idea this stupendous.

I am going to write a book, where all of the US Presidents (and a few Canadian dignitaries) exist in the same time frame on an abandoned island, and have to create their own society by reconciling their conflicting ideas of government.

Also, they are squirrels.  It is a squirrel society.

Phase Two:

I begin to write.  It’s going amazingly well.  Words are pouring out of my fingertips like something that pours out of somewhere very quickly and easily.  I brag to Taylor that, “This is the one!  This is the idea that’ll finally take me to the top of…I don’t know.  Idea-Havers!  Writing has never gone this well for me.  I know that this is the thing that I will finally see through to the end.”

Phase 3:

I get cocky, because before?  That was what I like to call puffery.  A bit of self-flattery.  Nothing in comparison to the way I see myself now.  This book, which I’ve decided to title Nuts And Bolts: An Island In Time, is going to be a best seller.  I may only be a quarter of the way into writing the first draft, but I can already tell.

Perhaps it’s time to expose others to my brilliance.

I set up a blog, tell my friends, and begin to post excerpts.  Maybe the chapter where Squirrel Andrew Jackson and Squirrel James K. Polk have a rain-soaked fight to the death in the upper branches of the Tree Of Government.  Just as they reconcile, Squirrel Polk slips and falls, falls, falls to the muddy ground below. Badger Winston Churchill mourns him with a single tear, and screams up at shell-shocked Jackson, “IS THIS WHAT YOUR GRAND IDEAS HATH WROUGHT?”

I am pretty proud of myself, and I’m sure that others will be too.

Phase 4:

Praise begins pouring in from people who are obligated to like me.  My friends tell me that yes, this certainly seems like A Book that I am writing.  It appears that I have absolutely had An Idea.  My mother, of course, adores it and reads it to my father who is half-listening while he plays Bejeweled Blitz.  A single lunatic on the internet sends me an e-mail declaring that they will buy everything I ever write, and can I send them pictures of my feet?

Obviously I have impressed my fans.  I’ll write another chapter and release it to them.  It’ll be even better!  I can do it!  After all, I’ve just written seventy pages of glorious squirrel-on-squirrel social commentary.  I’ve hit my stride, and now that I have an audience….

Phase 5:

…I also have crippling anxiety.

At this point, people know I’m trying to do something.  They have seen a sample.  There’s no turning back now, but when I sit down to write the next scene (in which Squirrel Lincoln goes on a spiritual journey to learn the truth about their time travel) it comes out stilted and awkward.  I take several breaks out of frustration.  I reread my old pages looking for inspiration and find myself editing, because seriously, a Northeastern Reticulated Chipmunk with the brain of a resurrected time traveling British Prime Minister has absolutely no motivation to go to that particular cliff at that particular time, what was I even thinking.

I began to fret over my master work, which I am beginning to suspect may not be as masterful as I previously thought.

Phase 6:

People begin to ask me how my progress is, which I always respond to with a furtive, “…good,” before I change the subject to Star Trek.  Whatever blog or website I have created to show off languishes without any kind of update.  Several times, I write an extensive explanation of my absence.  I call it ‘writer’s block’, but really, it’s more like, ‘realized my idea was moronic block’.  Somehow, though, I never post it.

I am secretly afraid that if I mention anything about it, people will remember what I said I would do.  It’ll be raised up, fresh in their minds, and they will revile me anew.  So I just kind of hide, hoping everybody will forget, waiting for inspiration to strike.

Phase 7:

I fall into a pit of self-loathing, convinced I can never do anything right ever again.  I have, by this time, written off my stupid presidential squirrel story as a very public failure.  There were too many flaws inherent in the basic concept.  For instance, the idea that Squirrel Franklin Delano Roosevelt would be able to survive without the use of his legs.

In an effort not to disappoint the people who have been reading my work, I post a couple of half-hearted attempts at continuing the story, but they just depress me.  Trash.  It’s all trash.  Miserable, bleak, horrible trash.

I never want to write/draw again.  There’s no future in it.

Phase 8/1:

But what ho?  What is this?  An idea! Why yes, it’s actually a good idea.  It’s a great idea!  It’s an absolutely splendiferous idea!  That old idea was stupid, I can see that now, but this idea is the answer.  Finally!  This is the one that will turn into my best seller/internet phenomenon.

Just imagine:

The world has discovered that zombies secrete a liquid that is the perfect renewable energy source, so they begin tainting Starbucks Coffee worldwide with the virus, but the zombies form a rebellion, fueled by the secret zombie superpowers they have been given by their zombification.

And it’s all told through the viewpoint of the main character’s zombie dog, Fuggins McCrae.

This is the one.



Posted by on April 6, 2011 in Uncategorized


2 responses to “the creative death cycle

  1. Alex

    April 6, 2011 at 11:55 am

    Hahaha. Yes, I’ve been there, this is spot-on.

    Never heard the cycle of creative death described quite so…creatively.

  2. Che

    April 8, 2011 at 3:47 am

    Loved this. You should totally keep going with the zombie story. Linking to this.


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