Confessions of a Clan Clasher and Candy Crusher

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I haven’t written in a long time. Not just at the Rabbit Room, but anywhere. I wish there were some genuinely good reason for this, like transient loss of finger movement, or that my brain suddenly started thinking only in Japanese for a few months straight. But there isn’t.

At the end of very long days of work, I’ve been defaulting to iPad games. The days are long, I say. I’m busy. Right? We’re all busy. “How are you doing?” our friend/family member asks. “Oh, good, just so busy.” That’s how we answer. And because I’m so busy, at the end of the day, I quite plainly haven’t wanted to think about anything deep – God, myself, other people, a story, a poem, a song. No, thanks.

I am, however, a level 92 player on Clash of Clans, with my own clan that will one day rise to the top 100. I am also at level 123 of Candy Crush. Because that matters.

And I haven’t written a thing. Not only have I not written a thing, I’ve barely read a thing. The two are related, of course. By why am I not reading and writing?

Thankfully, two weeks ago, I was completely jarred out of this by the unexpected revelation that J.K. Rowling had a new book, already out, under the name Robert Galbraith. A mystery novel! I started with the e-book and then switched over to audiobook, because of my long hours on the road. I finished it last night on the way to a Gordon Lightfoot show. When it ended (great book, by the way), I felt a sudden longing, something I hadn’t felt in a while and deeply missed. This story is over. I need another one. I downloaded Neil Gaiman’s newest book and listened to the first half on the way home from the Lightfoot show (great show, by the way).

Back to my question: Why wasn’t I reading and writing? These things have been so important to me for so many years. What happened?

I’d been running from emptiness. The problem was, as Neil Gaiman says, that it turns out wherever you run, you bring yourself with you.

This morning, over breakfast at a local restaurant, somehow in the middle of keeping the kids from smearing maple syrup all over everything, Tricia and I had a conversation about the things we do to avoid the emptiness and longing we each feel as human beings on planet earth. Most of the time, instead of facing it, we add another layer of meaninglessness above it. We get ourselves unhealthily attached to anything; it doesn’t have to be a traditionally “dangerous” addiction.

It’s not easy experiencing all the internal conflict of being a fallen person in a fallen world with longings for beauty and truth and community but equally strong longings for the exact opposite. Clash of Clans isn’t bad. Candy Crush isn’t either. Whatever games, or shows, or other distractions you like aren’t evil. I’m still going to have a top 100 clan some day (Tricia is rolling her eyes as she reads this). But I avoided story because story doesn’t let me avoid. It makes me think, imagine, feel, and experience life. It puts me into conflict and resolution, despair and relief, dyscatastrophe and eucatastrophe.

So here I am again. To be completely honest, Clash of Clans is open on my iPad, just to the left of this computer. But I’m writing, and I’m feeling and hoping and opening up, just a little, to the memory that there’s a big, gaping emptiness in me that can be filled only with Jesus.


25 Comments

  1. Andrew Mackay

    Travis, thanks for giving words to this. A similar struggle has settled in with me, and I think I’ve been trying to produce without dealing with the nature of the struggle. I needed these words.

  2. J. Chris Wall

    Beautiful confession Travis. I find myself in similar places. I become jealous of the dysfunctional artist who is driven to these dynamic creative explorations as though a frightened wild beast and sure to burn out. And yet because I am feeling particularly healthy, balanced and comfortable, I move on towards my various distractions. Again, thank you for the post.

  3. Eowyn

    I thought, this morning, Hannah, you should write something. I opened Word. And I opened Explorer alongside (which usually means I’m down the rabbithole in a matter of minutes), and here you are rebuking me. All right. FINE. I’m going to go write finish that blog post about Les Miserables now.

    But seriously, like you, I haven’t written in months. Something feels wrong. 🙂

  4. Lisa Eldred (@firstcrusader)

    This resonated way more than I want to admit, and I’ve been tempted to fast from my 360 for a few months precisely because I never do anything creative for myself anymore (unless you count reading, which is built into my schedule).

    My dilemma: I do a lot of writing and creative work at my job. It’s even a meaningful job, doing meaningful, life-changing writing (CovenantEyes.com – check it out). And my church is having me do an increasing amount of writing and creative work. So God is definitely making me use my skills in spite of my inherent laziness. But this means, when I get home, writing is the last thing I want to do. Any insights on how to work your way through a slump? How to motivate yourself to do for fun what you do every day for work?

  5. Glenn McCarty

    Travis,
    Thanks for the beautiful confession. As a fellow candy crusher in the 160’s (had to get that in), I’m right there with you. It seems there always something else that could get in the way of our doing the work we’re meant to do. But why does that something else have to look so tasty? Why can’t doing the good work be as appealing to our consciousness as Twitter or Candy Crush or any one of the dozens of time-suckers waiting for me on my way to the laptop to write? Wish I knew the answer.

    But as you discovered after the Gaiman book, that deep, meaningful sense of soul satisfaction is what keeps us coming back to the good stuff. And I think if I stuff myself so full of the good stuff: the new Gullahorn record, anything by Madeline L’Engle, heck, any kind of community, even if it’s that conversation you had with your wife over pancakes, when I feed myself with that, my desire to go after the candy wanes. Maybe just a little, but it does wane. In those moments, I remember what being full felt like, And I know that there’s a place in me that can’t be filled with candy.
    Thanks, bro.

  6. Lisa

    Travis, you are certainly not alone in this! I, too, have not written a word in nearly 6 weeks – due to the ultimate distraction of a long vacation. I had high hopes of doing some writing here, but there just wasn’t the space available and there were too many visitors coming to stay with us for that to work. But I am a bit disconcerted that I haven’t missed it more – going from writing something every day to nothing. All those quotes about how a “real” writer HAS to write as part of their survival. That feeling of self-doubt being, of course, another distraction awaiting me when I get home next week. However, what has helped me time and time again when I have been distracted, discouraged, or felt completely inadequate is the “bum in the chair, fingers on the keyboard” maxim. When I get home I will be doing just that, and ignoring the distractions. Glad to see you are doing the same!

  7. Heather Rose

    I am in this exact same place right now. Except my Clan Clash and Candy Crush are called Pinterest and Doctor Who.
    Mind-numbing is so much easier than mind-challenging with writing and reading and what-not.
    I keep on using the excuse that I’m just taking advantage of the last straggling days of summer vacation. But that doesn’t mean I can’t do the things that help me grow and see beauty of life.
    thank you for this. I needed it!

  8. Carrie Luke

    “But I avoided story because story doesn’t let me avoid.”
    Wow. There is your next book right there Travis.

    Thank you for sharing. You Prinzi’s are special.:)

  9. Profile photo of Ron Block

    Ron Block

    @ronblock

    I do that same stuff sometimes, though not games – news stories, usually. Same difference – not bad in and of itself, but can be a waste. I find myself sometimes wasting time, and letting my time be chopped into a thousand tiny pieces. I am currently reading The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, by
    Nicholas Carr, and I’d recommend it to anyone, especially artistic types.

  10. PJ Wehry

    I’ve found myself in this trap so many times, whether it’s games or movies or whatever. I understand what you’re saying about stories. I would just add that stories can be distractions too, when they’re not good stories, when they don’t do what they’re supposed to. Music can serve as either a distraction or a sign to the sacred too, depending on whether the music does what it’s supposed to do. I think games often function as distractions because they carry their goals within themselves which means their satisfaction too. I actually quit video games for a while, but it’s absolutely amazing how inventive your mind can be when it comes to distractions. Hmm, perhaps I will check out this, “Clash of Clans.”

  11. Ennazus

    Yes…I often find that when I’m not writing, or don’t feel like writing, it’s because of all the video games I find I’ve played that day…Can’t live with em, can’t live without em.

  12. Travis

    You are all great. Thanks for the kind and thoughtful responses.

    I’m so glad that I’m back to somewhat regular reading and writing again. Gaiman’s new book is excellent, and I’m now exploring some of the past stuff of his I haven’t read before. I’m nearing the end of Neverwhere, and he just knocked me right over with an amazing thought that pertains to story and reality, which I will soon turn into a post.

    I had a feeling there were a lot of us out there who were easily distracted with attempts at mind-numbing (good phrase, Heather Rose … though I have to say, Doctor Who almost never numbs my mind, but gets me thinking).

  13. Jenna St. Hilaire

    I sympathize. The games don’t get me, but spending mindless–or even mindful, but over-indulgent–time on the internet does. (Too much Facebook…) This has been a lousy year for me for writing, and I’m right at the point of feeling the need to get some discipline.

    You should definitely write more. After all, yours was always my favorite Harry Potter/mythopoeic lit site. 😉

  14. yankeegospelgirl

    I’m borrowing a laptop long-term from a friend, and I noticed that I could download some games apps. The temptation was strong, especially for Star Wars Angry Birds, but I managed to resist. I just know once I get started I won’t be able to stop. It’s scary.

  15. Michael Barrett

    I have been asking myself the question for sometime, why am I not doing what I love to do? Reading, writing, studying, recording? Instead I too play mindless games on my iPad. I wake up with the best intentions, thinking I can’t wait to get home from work and dive into a good book or study the word, only to arrive home tired and depleted, spending my evening in mindless dribble. These words explain why. Thank you.

  16. PaulH

    I have been accutely aware of my ability to make an addiction of just about anything. Music, Books, Pizza or Hot sauces, I have chained myself to just about everything in an attempt to avoid what is real; my true reality. I can only cheer on as one who is struggling right along with you.

  17. Profile photo of Daniel Sellers

    Daniel Sellers

    @daniel-sellers

    A friend of mine once told me that we ALWAYS make time for the things that matter to us the most, and that has always stuck with me. Where you invest your time, there will your heart be also. No matter how busy I am, I always manage to make time and energy for my idols, no matter how “innocent” they are. As Paul said in 1 Cor. 6:12, “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be dominated by anything.” Even cheese can be an idol and addiction (guilty!). Great words and a great reminder!

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