JoAnn Gometz

Writing | Editing | Content Strategy

How Escapism Fuels Creativity

I thought about titling this, "Teen Vampires Are My Spirit Animal," but that seemed a little too much, even for me. In recent weeks, though, my entertainment viewing has almost exclusively comprised all eight seasons of The Vampire Diaries ... and I'm now well into the second season of The Originals. Bear with me. I swear there's a point to this.

After I sent in my last MFA assignment a month ago, I took a very short, but deep breath. Then I started making lists. What comes next professionally. Geographically. Physically. Spiritually. In research. In writing. What I have. What I want. Who I hope to find. What adventures I seek. 

Of course, in no time, the immediate priority bubbled up, and it was good, solid work. So the lists sat. I made a little progress on one thing or another, but without passion or direction. Part of that was just the inevitable easing of focus at the end of a two-year endeavor. And part of it was that I didn't let myself truly relax, knowing that I have a brief vacation coming up soon enough.

My brain seemed hyper-aware and never off. In an effort to slow the roll, while tackling administrative tasks or in spare moments at the end of the night, I turned to NetFlix and the allure of supernatural dramas with no redeeming social value. As in, most of the plot lines feature a few deadly sins and several that may not be deadly, but sure ain't good. Plus skewed loyalty, odd interpretations of love, and seriously maladjusted family dynamics. Also romance, chivalry, and somewhat cracked fairy tales.

The technique did its job. Even through such a busy time (which is nowhere near its end), I've been able to snag glimmers of inspiration. Solutions to writing challenges in the book have come to mind here and there. Thoughts about how I'd like to tailor my professional life. Ideas for how to make my next brief step into the nomadic life. By letting at least part of my brain flit off into the stories on screen, I freed up a little bit of creative battery power.

It was only after I met up with two of my high school friends (one of them actually goes all the way back to fifth grade) for dinner last weekend that I realized why the televised undead, specifically, seemed to generate that response. Between the chicken flautas and the hysterical laughter over a nesting duck, it occurred to me that my friends and I had much more in common with our younger selves for those few hours than we did with our everyday lives. There was something freeing about that, as much as there was in the perpetual youth of the vampire crew.

I read so often about people taking long breaks to reset their minds and refocus their creative energy. I absolutely agree that's valuable and ideal. I certainly wouldn't turn up my nose at the opportunity to relocate to beachfront property with no responsibilities for an extended stay. But for me, and for most people, that's not exactly a practical or realistic option at any given time. We find ways to mimic the effects of a physical escape by taking a mental one and reaping the rewards. And when prayer or meditation is already in one's bag of tricks, one's mental escape may involve weeks of TV vampires. It's all good.