There was a demon inside of me that had to be exorcised every so often before it devoured me from the inside out. The demon’s name was Creativity, or, in more poetic terms, The Muse. The demon was a fallen angel, of course. My greatest challenge had always been including this pesky bastard in my daily routine where work and family came first.
My favored means of exorcism was writing. It was the creative skill I had developed the most. But for over a year I had been too shell-shocked from the big trans-Pacific move (The Great Return) to write much beyond journal entries and a blog post here and there. This did not satisfy The Muse, so other things happened instead.
Aside from being a writer, I was also a maker, which seemed like a trendy way of saying “hobbyist,” someone who made stuff in his spare time. There was a fine line between vocation and avocation, and that line was money. If at some point a hobby paid the bills, then its status was elevated to “job”. None of my hobbies paid the bills, but they did exorcise the creative demon inside.
One activity that helped me recover from The Great Return was chopping wood. There was something meditative about splitting logs. I spent many a snowy afternoon in the mountains swinging an axe, and then using a skill saw to cut the pieces in half to fit a small fire pit.
I did this so often last winter that it became ceremonious, and every ceremony required a ritual instrument. That was where creativity came into play. I bought a pyrography kit and decorated an axe. Then I decorated another, and it became a regular thing. I bought more axes, burned in my own designs, and gave them away to friends.
I got into woodworking, making shelves for the garage, and other odd items like a nice little cabinet to organize the kids’ Nintendo stuff and surge protector on the floor below the TV.
These hobbies kept the demon docile. Regular exorcisms became part of my routine.
At some point in the previous year my kids had given me the Dungeons & Dragons Starter Kit. They had asked me to learn the rules so we could play, but I had skimmed through the books and then put it on a shelf.
By the spring of 2022 the regular exorcisms had strengthened my creative musculature to the point I was ready to geek out. I took the D&D Starter Kit off the shelf and learned the rules. It had been over twenty years since I had played D&D, so for me 5th edition was new.
I spent a month or so reading the Players Handbook and play-testing combat and spells. At some point I became ready to ref the game. My boys loved it. Together we exercised (not exorcised) our collective creativity to have fun and create an imaginary world.
I also bought miniatures and gained inspiration to paint them during a visit with a game-enthusiast friend in Japan. The minis were used to play D&D, but painting them was a separate hobby from the game itself. Eventually the whole family got into painting them. It was good, creative fun.
Dungeons & Dragons got me in the mood to write again, so I came full circle back into the fold. How had I ever come to think of my creative gifts and talents as a demon that needed to be exorcised? The demon was a fallen angel, a product of my own flawed view of the world.
At times I had assumed to live a dual life: on the one hand the person who I was, and on the other, the person who I had to be for monetary income in the world. Creativity became the enemy to the things I had to do in life. But obligations had nothing to do with who I really was.
Often people attempt to live their lives backward: They try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want, so that they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then do what you need to do, in order to have what you want.Creative Visualization, Shakti Gawain
When it came to work, I was an artist first and everything else second. I remembered who I was, did the things I was meant to do, and in that way came to have what I was grateful to have.