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I was so much more creative when I was in college…


This is going to be pretty unstructured. Bear with me…

Let me start out by saying that I think this year has been very good, by and large.  I can’t complain too much.  Sometimes work is stressful, and that sucks, and sometimes things can get gloomy in a long distance relationship, and that sucks, too.  But overall, I think this has been a good year.  Work is going well.  The Scatterbrained Seminarian and I are figuring things out together.  I have amazing friends and family, a wonderful roommate, and there are good things on the horizon.  Life is good.

Oh yeah, except for that whole writing thing.  How did my plan go? Three parts?  A big idea and some little ideas?  A blog entry a week? Man oh man, it feels like a long time ago.  Forty-five weeks later and this will be my 23rd blog entry.  Now, I’m not a math guy, but my brother is, and he could double check my calculations here:  45 – 23 < 45.

I really don’t have anyone to blame but myself.  I even had a month off work when I was recovering from surgery in which I could have spent just crazy amounts of time writing.  I’ve also slipped back into my old, bad habit of calling myself a writer even when I’m not writing, despite having said, all those weeks ago, that I did not get to do that anymore.

There is a well-known aphorism among writers (know about it because they let me linger outside the window during their Writer Meetings sometimes) that waiting for inspiration is a terrible way to write. Now it seems to me that tapping into one’s creativity is a good way to fill in the gaps when inspiration is running short.  But what about when creativity is in short supply as well?

When I was in college, I was an idea factory.  Ok, that might be overselling it a bit, (I couldn’t write fiction very well then, either), but things were very different.  Better, at least from an intellectual standpoint.  I was in an environment where my primary job was to think, and I was surrounded by other people for whom the same was true.  When you’re in that environment, it’s nearly impossible not to be creative, and sharp, and clever.  Both creativity and inspiration seemed to be infinite.

And it’s not that the people with whom I spend my time aren’t interesting or intelligent — they are — but we also don’t sit around for between four and eight hours every weekday and rap about philosophy or literature or technology or religion.  What I’m realizing is that I need that in my life, and I’m worried because I don’t know how to get it back.  In school it’s easy.  That’s pretty much what school is.  But try to create that environment elsewhere and you end up with the potentiality for an awkward, contrived mess.

I’m sorry if this is coming across as scattered and frantic, but I’m feeling pretty scattered and frantic right about now.  (This entry is as short on editing as it is on inspiration and creativity).

I don’t know what the fix for this is, but I can’t possibly be the only person who has noticed the “I was more creative when I was in college” phenomenon.  Anybody else out there feeling uncreative, confused, and afraid?  What do we do?  Can we help each other?

I was watching a youtube video this evening of an a capella group called Pentatonix.  It was technically not an a capella song, as they were playing string instruments and singing.  I learned from a friend that the cellist was discovered by the others while he was playing cello on the street and accompanying it with beatboxing.  I looked at a friend of mine (we’re both musicians, and she’s also an artist) and asked her, “Do you ever look at someone like a Greg Patillo or a Pentatonix, people who are truly innovating in their fields, and wish you did something like that?”

I know I do.  I want to make something totally new.  I want to innovate.  But hell, I can’t even write a blog entry a week.

As always, thank you for reading.  I’m very sorry that I don’t always honor your continuing readership.  More to follow…

8 responses to “I was so much more creative when I was in college…

  1. Bob ⋅

    Hi, Josh! Just two things. Yes, the academic environment is a luxurious greenhouse for thinking and creativity. Those of us privileged to make a career of it are blessed beyond words. I’d say you took pretty good advantage of your shorter term in our greenhouse. Now, how to keep those creative juices following out there in the ‘real world,’ eh? Since I haven’t had to do that in my lifetime, I’m not much good for advice. I am able to observe, however, that when you say “I’m sorry if this is coming across as scattered and frantic,” you don’t come across as scattered and frantic! You may BE scattered and frantic, but your PROSE is measured and clear. You must be a writer!

    Do you get Alan’s blog? Five days a week! If he can do five, I bet you can do one, if you really want to. I have faith in you! 🙂

    • Josh

      Thank you so much, Bob! I don’t have the words to tell you how much that means to me, particularly coming from you. You were a huge part of my development as a thinker and a writer, and I’m grateful every day for what you’ve taught me. Your encouragement means a lot; thank you so much.

  2. Armanda ⋅

    I agree with the above statement!! I’m not a writer but I thought this was well written. Also, we need to hang out more because I feel the same way. Sometimes I really miss the old days at the apartment because we had some really good discussions. I am also reminded of the song from Avenue Q that goes ” I wish I could go back to college in college you know who you are you sit on the quad and think Oh my god I am totally gonna go far ” Look it up it’ll make you smile 🙂

    • Josh

      Thanks, Manda Bear. 🙂 Yeah, sometimes I miss the old days, too. Not that I’m not happy with where I am in life –I am– (I know you know what I mean…) but they were good times, and we did have some great discussions. I’d love to catch up sometime soon!

  3. Jimster ⋅

    Josh never have we agreed more. This was one on the first things I have read since college ( a bit of an oversell myself). However, when I read the title I had to read it because I am felling the same way. Since I graduated and no longer have our chapel discussions, I feel a void creatively and intellectually. Why is it so easy in college and so hard after? I planned on participating in the Merton Seminar this year, to help myself reengage, but was unable to attend because of life around me. I reached out to you last week because i hoped we could get together and rap naturally. Still hoping this will happen, but we will have to wait until after Thanksgiving. Anyway I am rambling at this point, but I did want to say that for my first reading of your blog it was excellent and exactly want I needed to hear.

    • Josh

      Well, Jimster, we were bound to agree about something eventually. 🙂 Thank you, my friend. I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you more quickly. I know what you mean about life interfering. We do need to get together soon, though. Things are about to get crazy at work, but we’ll find some time. Text me.

  4. Pingback: A quick note about nostalgia, and history, and the state of our lives | inspiredbyrandom

  5. Pingback: Thankful | Burning River Writing

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