A few days ago I said this on Twitter:
After three months of unstoppable creativity,I suddenly have run out of motivation. Nothing I want to say.Don't want to play games.No music.
— Shamus Young (@shamusyoung) April 8, 2015
When I’m feeling very creative, I generally exhibit a well-defined set of behaviors:
- Being unable to stop creating. Like, I start thinking about stuff I want to do the moment I wake up, and I go to sleep only when my brain completely flames out. Between these points, I spend every possible moment working on stuff. Sometimes I’ll take a break from one creative project by working on a completely different project. (Like stopping writing so I can compose music, and then taking a break from music for programming.)
- My sleep schedule “rolls forward”. Since I don’t want to stop working, I generally stay up as long as possible. Without an alarm clock keeping me on a fixed schedule, I end up staying up later each day, living on a kind of 24.5 hour clock. My sleep schedule might roll forward an entire day in the space of a month.
- I listen to a lot of music.
- I’m very keen on sensory input. Food tastes awesome and I eat lots of itUsually junk food, since I’m unwilling to stop working long enough to prepare something healthy.. Other appetites increase accordingly.
- I talk a lot. I talk fast. I interrupt a lot because the ideas are coming so fast I sort of neglect the whole “social graces” end of conversation.
- I’m more physically active. I spend more time wrestling with the kids and dancing with the wife. I bound up stairs, fidget in my chair, and pace whenever I’m not at the computer creating stuff.
- I tend not to worry. “Things will work out fine in the end.”
I am really curious about these long cycles in mental state. I wonder if they're related to clinical depression? (NOT saying I'm depressed.)
— Shamus Young (@shamusyoung) April 8, 2015
This manic sometimes lasts for months. It’s always a bummer when it ends. When it does, the pendulum swings back the other way. I have no desire to be creative. I lose interest in games and music. I’m physically more sedentary. I worry more. Instead of interrupting, my mind wanders and I don’t have much to sayIt’s entirely possible my conversational failings aren’t anything to do with mental state and I’m just a simple jerk.. I also feel depressed. Not the soul-crushing sadness of clinical depression, but a sort of low-level general inability to take joy in things. I’m not sad, just sort of indifferent and bored.
It would make sense to me if I was up when things were going well and down when sad things happened. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. I’m down now, and nothing particularly bad has happened. I was way up a month ago, and things were actually going kind of crappy at the time.
I have this suspicion that this cycle isn’t unusual. I’m willing to bet that lots of people have ups and downs that are more to do with brain chemistry and less to do with how things are going in their life. I doubt I’m all that unique. But I don’t know for sure. Most people have very “noisy” lives: They interact with a lot of other people and have a ton of random stimuli. Other people can alter your mood through kindness or cruelty, and I’m a rare person that doesn’t experience a lot of that kind of inputEr. I guess I get a ton of it through the internet, but almost nothing in the way of personal face-to-face conflict. I think the two are pretty different.. Same routine. Same people. Same food. No alcohol or caffeine. The repetition makes it really easy for me to pick out shifts in my mood, which might be difficult or impossible in a busy lifestyle of personal politics, bad traffic, jerk coworkers, office parties, and the stress of pleasing an employer with vague goals.
After sharing my thoughts on Twitter, a couple of people messaged me (and some even emailed) expressing concern. So I’m writing this post to encourage you not to worry. I’m fine. I don’t bring this up because I’m suffering or need help. I bring it up because I find it interesting, and I figure other people out there probably experience similar patterns. Maybe someone else will recognize themselves in this and it’ll help them better understand their own mood shifts. Or maybe it will just feel good to discover they’re not alone.
Anyway, now I’m just slogging through my writing duties and hoping the next upswing hits soon. Fingers crossed.
 Usually junk food, since I’m unwilling to stop working long enough to prepare something healthy.
 It’s entirely possible my conversational failings aren’t anything to do with mental state and I’m just a simple jerk.
 Er. I guess I get a ton of it through the internet, but almost nothing in the way of personal face-to-face conflict. I think the two are pretty different.
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