Since February, I have been on a freelancing hiatus to really do some reflection and to pursue some other creative projects that I have had on the back burner for a while. When I chose to take that hiatus, I could not see the oncoming pandemic nor the significant changes that would create in my work at Taylor University, the impact it would have on the tabletop game industry, nor how it would alter my life at home as a parent and caregiver.
The hiatus turned out to be an unexpected blessing. Having reduced my freelancing workload, I had much more margin in my life to manage the quickly changing world of the pandemic. I worked on a small freelance edit for a friend, but otherwise I have been focused on work and family during this time. And during it all, I have found small pockets of time to delve into my own creativity. I haven’t been bored, but I have taken time to just think, ponder, and play around with ideas.
Downtime is where we become ourselves, looking into the middle distance, kicking at the curb, lying on the grass or sitting on the stoop and staring at the tedious blue of the summer sky. I don’t believe you can write poetry, or compose music, or become an actor without downtime, and plenty of it, a hiatus that passes for boredom but is really the quiet moving of the wheels inside that fuel creativity.the author Anna Quindlen
One of the results of this reflection and seeking creative outlets led to the #WildUpland videos I have been working on as improvisational narration of nature. It is the improvisation that intrigues me the most as it forces me to be in the moment and just allow my words to flow naturally. They aren’t award-winning narrations, but they are personal and from the heart. They remind me so much of the nature videos I watched growing up and bring a smile to my face each time I record one. The videos have also encouraged me to exercise more and pay even closer attention to the small town I live in. I have a much better feel of the ebb and flow of life in and around Upland, Indiana than I ever have, as I take walks daily and sometimes more than once. I have also noticed that my perception of the world around me has become much more sensitive again. Little movements in the corner of my eye, out of place color variations, rustling in the grass, and noises on the wind all capture my attention. I used to be this way when I was younger, hiking the woods and biking, so this is a welcome return of my senses and my creativity from when I was a kid.
Another outlet has been a roleplaying campaign I have been running online for one of my daughters, my brother-in-law, and two friends. During the height of the self-isolation we were playing weekly, and have now slowed it down to monthly as the world is opening back up. Rather than run a pre-written D&D adventure, I came up with a story concept and have been really paying attention to my players’ actions and words, developing the campaign totally in response to my players…even more than I normally do. This has created a very interactive story that truly has the player characters in the center of the storyline. I have done player-centered, improvised adventures before, but it has been years since I was this focused on the players and writing the story as I go. I have been so busy with life, before the pandemic, that I often ran customized pre-written adventures that had some player-centric response mixed with the prewritten info. Being so engaged in a shared interactive story energizes me and has me excited for our next game night.
Finally, I have spent some time in recent weeks researching and brainstorming for a book series I really want to write. I have always been a storyteller, finding my outlet mostly in theater and roleplaying games, but I have this urge to try my hand at writing after years of editing other writers’ works. I am not ready to share more about my ideas publicly yet, but I have been sharing with The Writers’ Bloc lunch group my wife and I attend each week. They have been very encouraging and wonderfully challenging me to keep working on my writing. I have also reached out to J.J. Hanna for consultation about being a new writer and I highly recommend her services. She is so patient and willing to listen and provide honest feedback. Even if I never publish my book, the research and writing process has been very fulfilling and another wonderful creative outlet during my hiatus.
So, my hiatus was planned, but the pandemic extending the hiatus longer was not. The hiatus has evolved into more time with my direct family, time in my own thoughts, and time seeking creative outlets outside our isolation. Has this pandemic isolation helped or hindered our creativity? Have you found an extended hiatus in your life has ever helped your creativity?