Burst of Insight—Maintaining Creativity (in a World Turned Upside Down)

Imagine the world is like a globe. No not just round but an actual globe. Maybe even an ornate antique one made from brass and oiled hard woods. Once flawless, the globe is showing some age and wear from inattention to its proper care. But still, someone had placed it in a place of honor in this warm book lined study of a universe. Unfortunately, sometime in late 2019 dozens of monkeys broke into the study and sent everything especially our antique globe crashing and bouncing around the room.

I’m pretty sure I saw this little jerk ring leading the mob crashing through my fictitious study.


As the world careens from crisis to crisis it is hard not to go numb. To rage. Or sink into depression. Sometimes all of those and worse. How then do we maintain creativity in the face of pandemics, protests and violent counter protests, then even outright attacks on democracy?

Honestly, I have no idea. I haven’t fared so well myself in these tumultuous times of living history. As, 2020 began even into the early days of the pandemic I had big goals for 2020. Personal creative projects that have fizzled for the moment awaiting a time for me to become productive again. Even this blog which I really enjoy writing most of the time has taken far more effort and energy than it ever has before. I’ve spent the last several months thinking, “Just get to January. Put 2020 behind us and your Mojo will comeback.” While a bitter, definitively Gen X portion of my mind waited for the other shoe to drop. We didn’t wait long. Sigh.

So anyway, the world’s upside down. My creativity is shot . . . I’m watching my friends via social media complain of much the same, which seems to emphasize my own depression because now I’m worried about all of them and this grim spiral keeps cycling and recycling.

Then, somebody, another gamer on the internet kinda pissed me off. What people on the internet arguing—It’s unthinkable, I know, but there I was arguing (generally) that you can run nearly any setting with any system. And sure, some systems either because of work required or the general feel of the rules won’t appeal to every group but you can certainly run Cyberpunk in the Cypher system! Two things were noteworthy about this discussion. One it really was a discussion, it was a little circular at times but it wasn’t a flame war. It remained civil. Two, I was angry. I don’t normally get angry about games but I was fired up. As I broke my first 500 words of Cypher System Cyberpunk notes I realized I was wrong I wasn’t angry (at least not with the guy I’d been debating) I was passionate somehow that got tangled up with my anger with the world and the words and work just flowed. At least until the other shoe dropped and the events at the US capital dimmed my enthusiasm and slowed my pace.

I should emphasize slowed not stopped, I still have that fire and I’m keeping it stoked. So I guess the point of all of this is we’re living a messed-up crazy time and whatever it is that inspires your creativity run with it while you can and walk with it if that’s the only pace you can keep. Just try not to lose hope and create while you can.


My best wishes to everyone struggling right now.


Burst of Insight

Andrew Marlowe

placed in the Top 16 of RPG Superstar in 2012 and 2014, one of the few contestants to get that far in the competition twice. Since then, he has contributed to many Paizo and third party Pathfinder products, including one of the network’s favourite releases in the Pathfinder Player Companion line, the Dirty Tactics Toolbox. Every other Tuesday, he will be sharing his Burst of Insight, with design tips for would-be game designers from a decorated freelancer.