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Friday, May 18, 2001

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Fantasy and creativity

I've been feeling lately like I can't enter into the made up world of books. I can make up my own fantasies but I can't get interested in the fantasies of others. I remember some that I was into so deep but even when I reread them I don't feel the pull like I used to. I read somewhere that not reading novels left you less able to empathize with people. I've never been able to enjoy novels very much yet I feel like I empathize with people too much. I draw back from the hurt people give to others because it hurts me too much.

I find it easier to read books that are mysteries or science fiction because they're like puzzles to solve, especially the mysteries, but to read a story about what idiots people are doesn't interest me. I do like biography even though these show even more what idiots we are but at least that's real, or as real as the biographer can make it. We'll never know how someone really feels, only how they say they feel and what we can "read between the lines" from their behavior.

I've tried reading several mystery and science fiction books the last month and have found it very hard going. I do read mystery when I'm feeling particularly depressed or when I'm traveling but both times I think it's more a way to pass the time when I'm either uninterested in the usual tasks of my daily life, as when I'm depressed, or unable to fill my time with daily tasks, as when I'm traveling.

There may be some people who fill every moment with creative and interesting things to do but most of us spend a good portion of our time in routine tasks because it takes an enormous amount of energy to always be vitally immersed in active, creative work. I know when I am spending a lot of time at something that I can get totally immersed into I come out of it wonderfully happy but also very tired.

For those of us who find just keeping up with the minimum requirement of social interaction to be very tiring due to anxiety, the additional energy to be in a constant state of creativity is well beyond our ability. Those who are truly manic depressive are probably also very creative because they do have times when they just can't stop doing things and the energy of their disorder gives them the ability to be very creative. Then, of course, they drop into a black hole for a while, and often don't come out of it, but while they are manic they create things that are wonderful.

At times like this when I can't appreciate other's fantasies I often wonder if you can be creative if you can't appreciate the fantasies of others. Am I less creative than I could be because I can't enter into another's fantasy? Or is an appreciation of other's fantasies irrelevant to being creative oneself? I'm often jealous when I read about an artist or writer who is so well and widely read since I never seem to even get started on the "100 best books" lists. Is it a lack in me that doesn't allow me to appreciate what others call great literature or is it that great literature is an acquired taste or, perhaps, is it not so great, after all. I will always have a sneaking suspicion that most of it really is great, but that doesn't mean that I will appreciate most or even much of it.

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Rachel Aschmann 2001.
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