I have learned that there is such a thing as “creative fatigue”. As exciting as it can be to get down to business when you have a great idea overflowing with possibilities, there comes that time when you need to put pen to paper (or mouse to pixel) and start the journey, at which point the glow can quickly fade, and that exciting idea turns to plain, old fashioned grunt work. Commercials and American myth paint “passion” as all one needs to get through a project, but the fact is that sometimes the levels of immersion needed to ride that train to the end of the line is just too damn overwhelming.
My drive to work on an RPG campaign began last week when I started talking about my struggles in finding a decent vehicle for my ideas. This included both campaign management tools and tools for making maps — specifically, sci-fi maps, as my idea was under the gravitational control of Starfinder. When I settled on some tools — World Anvil for management and DungeonFog for maps — I was ready to hit the ground running. I spent time this week making maps and writing up support vignettes for my campaign, and when I was in it everything hummed along.
Eventually I had to look up from my work, and when I decided that I should dive back in, the momentum was slowing down. I had spent a lot of energy on a few things, making them pretty good, but then had no energy to move on to the next task. I deviated a bit by picking up Foundry Virtual Tabletop software, a host-and-web-client VTT that has a lot of open source support for rules and functionality, but when I learned that the Starfinder support was a work in progress, it kind of knocked some of the wind out of my sails. Foundry isn’t the only game in town, of course, but my plan had been to integrate World Anvil, DungeonFog, and Foundry into one powerhouse of online TTRPG excellence, but things were starting to fall apart.
I thought “hey, let me switch systems and think about a 5E project instead” since there’s an embarrassing amount of support for all things 5E right now, but that was a non-starter. I have the stub of an idea, but when I started to think about that pen-to-paper step, I couldn’t drum up enough physical, spiritual, or emotional support to get started.
This is usually the point where things spiral out of control anyway. I have no plans on actually running a campaign; I bought Foundry more “to have” than anything, the same way I owned Fantasy Grounds for several years before I ever actually had the chance to use it. Why did I even begin to work on a campaign when the best I could expect of it was to shelve it so I can look back on it in a few years and be amazed at the good ideas and curse the bad?
I see regular Tweets from folks saying “you don’t need to be creating all the time! Take a break! It’s OK!” and yes, it is OK, the same way it’s OK to drink Red Bull or like any of the “Real Housewives” series: It’s a choice that some people make because it’s of no consequence to them either way, or because it’s something that the decide — conscious or not — that they need. It’s not for anyone to say whether that need is “real” or not for someone else. It’s real to them. Creating is real to me, and when I feel that I am failing — even if that “failure” is because I burned myself out — it’s painful.