Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Vampires

No, I’m not thinking of switching to the horror genre, nor trying my hand at penning a YA novel (although I have always been a fan of Bram Stoker’s Dracula). I am also not talking about those LED thingies on all our appliances and electronic devices that you just can’t turn off unless you unplug the whole damn thing, in which case you’d spend half your life bending down to plug/unplug nearly everything you own.

What I am referring to are those people who just tend to suck the life and joy out of everyone surrounding them.

You know the type: high maintenance people with big needs, never very much help with anything and usually with constant complaints about nearly everything.

It’s easy to collect them, especially if you’re any kind of an empathetic person. I am and I do. These sorts of vampires can suck you dry of any energy or enthusiasm in one brief phone call. Maybe the legends of blood-sucking night creatures actually revolve around the sort of person who seems to have perfected self-misery and shooting themselves in the foot.

I had an email from someone the other day, and I am well aware that emails from this person are usually very negative. It’s as if they sense where my weaknesses are and the home in on them like a guided missile. I was just about to sit down and work on my very “sluggish” novella project. Now is the time for it to get into hyperdrive and really start humming along. I know what I want to write and it’s dammed up inside my head, threatening to gush out whether I want it to or not.

But I opened the email anyway. I know, I know. It’s like that horror movie where you know something awful is hiding in that closet, but you watch helplessly as the character insists on opening the door.

Instant despair. I just sat there blinking like an idiot when I finished the lengthy missive. If I really was going to be the terrific friend I’d like to think I am, I would have hopped on a plane and gone out to help sort out a life filled with turbulence due to a lot of misery. I can’t help it. I’m an empath and really feel that I could help. It’s a close friend, and well, it’s hard to turn away.

Knowing I couldn’t do that, I picked up the phone. By the end of that lengthy conversation, I was completely depressed and stared at my computer screen for a good five minutes, mind completely blank and feeling like I just wanted to go back to bed. Perhaps that would have been a good idea: start my day over.

Yeah, you’re probably thinking that I should just not turn on my computer’s mail program when I sit down to write. Problem is, I have to know what my design clients are up to. A new job may be in the offing, or there might be a problem with something I’d sent off to the printer the day before. I have good reasons to watch my incoming mail.

In thinking about it since, I realized that I have to steel myself against taking ownership of other people’s problems. If this means losing friendships, so be it. This empathy thing can easily become a very full-time job.

Its side effect of sapping one’s creative energy, however, has gotten me thinking.

Why is creative energy so much more fragile than physical or lower-level mental energy? On the day in question, I went on to be very productive doing the (admittedly rote) assembly of a large graphic design job I was working on (adding images to an already conceived layout). And I did a large amount of work out in the kitchen on some meat-curing I’m involved in. I shoveled snow. I vacuumed the upstairs.

But as for my grand writing plans? Zilch. Nada. The circus had left town — at least for that day. I tried again later in the evening with nothing useful happening. It was as if my writing idea vault suddenly had a big fat lock on it. Even though I knew what I wanted to say, it just wouldn’t come out.

Next morning, I stayed away from the computer for a couple of hours and had a very profitable time writing. It meant, though, that I had to get up at 6:00 when clients are never in their offices. The house was quiet, and the phone wouldn’t ring unless it really was an emergency.

It was lovely.

So here’s my question folks: why is creative energy such a fragile and whimsical thing? Any ideas? Please share them! I, for one, will thank you.

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