Cycles of Creativity

I realized last week that at some point in the recent past I’d entered a new phase of my creative life.

Also, I realized that I had phases. So that was a thing.

I’ve been writing for most of my life. I started where most people do, making derivative stories off of other stories. Mine all had pictures when I was younger, because I wanted to be an artist. My mother wrote stories when I was little, so I’d watch her type and then go off and type as well.

So. Cycles. I think I’m in my third cycle on my writing.

The first started about 2004 and probably lasted until 2009. I finished my first complete novel draft in 2004/2005, and over the next several years I wrote several more. I experimented. I joined writers’ groups and made writing friends.

This was a cycle of learning and creation. At the very end of it, I started publishing (I had a short story published in an anthology in 2007, and the first edition of Hidden Worlds came out at the end of 2009), but in general I was just creating.

So then the second cycle goes from about 2010 to late 2018. In that cycle, I was focused on craft. I started writing and submitting short fiction (something I almost never wrote during that first cycle, because for a long time I didn’t think I was capable of it, and also didn’t see the point of short stories when I was writing novels).

(You can actually see my mindset on that change, since I started the blog in 2010.)

I focused on editing those novels I wrote during the first cycle. I went to some writers’ conferences, studied marketing and publication, tried my hand at getting an agent a few times. This was a cycle of…mastery, maybe. A focus on craft, and process, and all the logical stuff that goes into writing as a career.

I did not do a lot of novel writing during that time period. Oh, I rewrote earlier novels, sure, but with purpose. I think I only did two in that entire time period (one being City of Hope and Ruin, and the other being my space dinosaur adventure).

I learned a ton in that second cycle. And I felt like I was doing what I had to, to be successful as a writer. And maybe I did need to do all that. Time will tell.

That brings us to now, to the third cycle. Last year, I started to get the itch to write new things, instead of constantly revising and polishing things I’d written during that first cycle. To do the creative side rather than the business side.

I mean, I do think you need both sides. But now that I’m out the other side of that second cycle, I wonder if I couldn’t have broke it up a little better.

So what does this third cycle look like? It’s probably too early to tell.

But it has reminded me of something. And that something is…creativity is occasionally nebulous and hard to tame.

If you’ve got a deadline, or a theme to follow, then, yeah, sure, you can probably write a story that works. But if you’re left to your own devices, where you can write anything or everything…

Writers are like crows. We like shiny things. We are easily distracted by shiny things.

I think, in my head, I was remembering that first cycle as being fairly linear. I started a novel, I finished a draft of that novel. Then I started the next one, and so forth.

But I bet you if I go back through my saved files from that time period, I’d find half a dozen other novels that I started and never got anywhere on. Stories that I laid out but did not write. Forgotten missteps and lost scenes, even from stories that did eventually get finished.

You see, I was feeling a little frustrated with myself because I’ve started a bunch of stories in the last year that I’ve not really gotten anywhere with.

Yes, I finished my scifi horror novella (and my beta said it gave her nightmares! bwhahahaha), but it still was 30K over six months, which isn’t terribly impressive. And the CoHaR sequel isn’t solely my responsibility, which makes it hard to make headway on by myself.

But even ruling that out, I’m on my third start for my changeling story (though I’m at 6K, so the current start has done better than the other two attempts). And there’s the Luddite story, and World’s Edge is still sitting at 55K…

But then I realized…this is how these creative cycles go. Some things work. Others don’t. Some of those might work later, in different circumstances. The trick is not to get too hung up on it and to make sure you are creating, even if it’s 20K here and there. Things will get done. And some things aren’t worth doing.

Now, 2020 is the year of education, so I’m not worrying too much about it, but maybe moving forward I can do a better job of mixing the creative and left-brained cycles a little more. Write something, then revise something. Learn something, then put it into direct use.

Plus, you know, the world has problems, and I should probably be glad that I’m producing anything at all.

How are you doing, squiders?

2 responses to this post.

  1. My first cycle several years ago was writing on inspiration, whatever came to mind. To that end, I was focused more on short stories. Now I have a matured a bit and have come to accept the grind. I finished a whole third of my current novel in the past month, 30K some words, but it was grindy for sure.


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