Recently I found myself tinkering with some new ideas. At first, I was quite jazzed by what I was working with – these ideas, for me, were different than my usual fare. I started to iterate and expand the ideas…until I realized that I had begun singing the same old song…
…Here is where I should mention that, in addition to regularly Game-Mastering for tabletop role-playing games I also write (queue shocked gasps). This is relevant, watch…
…The light-bulb moment came when I was conveying these new ideas to my wife. She pointed out to me that the species of dragon-like beings in the new content seemed striking similar to a race over in my writing.
The moment I realized the record that is my creative self was set on loop was when my wife pointed out to me that a species in this new idea (which was for tabletop) had some striking similarities to a race in my writing. I made some feeble defensive noise about how they were different and went on with my day. Then I started thinking about it…and thinking about it….and realized she was absolutely right. I also realized, after some additional tinkering, that I was sick to death of my creative self: I was bored and tired and I would really like someone to turn off that damn music!
In other words, I was experiencing creator fatigue.
You may be asking, especially if you are among the rare few that hasn’t had this experience, what creator fatigue is: I liken it to eating the same thing everyday for weeks, months, years and so on. That food could be your favorite in the world but eating it all the time might make you sick. Creativity is similar: we all have favorites our favorite plot points, themes, character archetypes, game systems and so on. We tend to use them often, go back to them by default, and revel in the comfort they bring. This can lead to creator fatigue – it’s natural, if a bit depressing.
So how does one combat creator fatigue? You could wait for it to go away on its own as your creative juices replenish themselves, but lets be active about it. I’m going to give two tips on this:
First, you can immerse yourself in the sorts of fiction that you already enjoy: read a book, play a video game, or play in a tabletop game that you aren’t Game-master for. For me, this has the effect of revitalizing my love for the sorts of stories I enjoy while being low impact on my own creative psyche. I did this pretty much immediately after I realized I was going through a bough of creator fatigue this week by picking up The Last Wish and starting a save of the second Witcher video game and it has helped a lot.
Second, and this is the trickier of the two tactics, is to break out of your comfort zone a bit and expose yourself to something different. Pick up a book from a genre your don’t normally read, play a different style of video game, or play in a tabletop system that is different from your go to one. The latter of those really worked for me this year: I am a hardcore fan of Fate system but that’s not the system I’ve been a player in the most this year – that honor goes to d20 systems like Dungeons and Dragons 5E and Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Not my normal cup of tea, but playing in those games pushed me out of my comfort zone and made me think in different ways regarding the hobby.
But lets not make this entirely about me: have you experienced or are currently experiencing creator fatigue? How do you manage it? Let me know in the comments!