Delivering on Creativity

After a weekend of manuscript wrestling and editorial review, I sent Deliver Us From Evil, my latest writing project, to my collaborator Alex Guillotte. I started on this scenario one month after releasing my first Miskatonic Repository effort. I banged out Swamp Song’s draft in under two months, yet I struggled to finish the latest work for over a year. Nearing the finish line for this marathon, I’ve taken time to reflect on what happened, and what I can learn.

First, I undertook Swamp Song one month after submitting a 120,000-word manuscript to Chaosium that includes four scenarios I wrote and playtested in under a year. I felt a creative void having completed this big project, and I needed somewhere to direct that energy. 

After Swamp Song came out, I felt a pent-up release from both projects. I felt pressure to keep writing, but I had lost motivation. Between the accepted Chaosium book contract, which shortly followed the inception of Prospero House, and Swamp’s release, we had a son, moved across the country, started new and very demanding jobs, and continued to navigate a lot of stressors. I had new academic writing demands. I was incredibly burnt out but felt pressure to keep up the momentum. A coercive sense of obligation did not sustain me. 

I continued to release a smattering of blog posts, but I was adrift concerning my creative pursuits. To make matters worse, I beat myself up over my perceived stagnation. I kept my creativity on life support by attending Origins and doing what drives me—playing games. I resolved to take some time off, turn down a few projects, reboot my Masks campaign, and wait for a fully restored creative urge. When inspired, I would build out stems and outlines for other scenarios, while not committing to focused and intensive writing. 

Along the way, I listened to The Rewatchables episode on Deliverance. The 1972 survival thriller left an outsized (sometimes underappreciated) impact on the horror genre. I began to consider ways to combine that content with the Olympic Peninsula weirdness presented in Laird Barron’s cosmic horror, particularly Mysterium Tremendum

As 2023 ended, I committed to writing one scenario per year and aimed to have Deliver Us From Evil ready for publication by Chaosium Con. This did not pan out. I did manage to get it “playtest ready” for the convention. Thanks to the players’ enthusiasm and inspiring conversations with other creators, I returned home from Ann Arbor with renewed energy that propelled me to finish the project. Now that it’s out of my hands, I have accepted a few things:

  • Sometimes it’s better to be finished than perfect. Doing things imperfectly, yet attentively is a path to improvement.
  • On that path to improvement, continue to search for mutual support and seek shared discoveries—at the gaming table, at conventions, through creative conversations with friends
  • Social media intentionally manufactures a false sense of urgency. The creative craft is a slow build. 
  • Expectations, especially those related to others’ opinions, are massive roadblocks to personal discovery and creativity. 
  • Do not confuse busyness with productivity. Busy often gets in the way of quality.
  • Do not trade fun for work. If it feels like work, step back and re-evaluate.
  • Never compare someone’s output to my own. Everyone operates at their own pace with unique incentives.
  • Avoid the sunk-cost fallacy—it’s ok to shift directions and remember creating is about the process, not just the product. 

With the last in mind, I’m going to start spending some time here on the blog reflecting on writing and the creative process with a slant toward TTRPGs. I can’t guarantee I’m not going to veer far afield and self-indulgently talk to myself about improving my craft while navigating the internal struggles. It’s another thrilling adventure, and I hope to have some companions along the way. 

8 thoughts on “Delivering on Creativity

  1. Keeper Dave says:

    Love all your guides. If it’s not fun and joyful, is it even worth it?

  2. Nathan says:

    First off, thank you for all of the great resources for Masks you have here. I just finished running Masks a couple of weeks ago (almost 4 years) and I definitely used some info/suggestions provided here.

    There is a lot of wonderful advice here for those of us slogging through their next scenario. Thank you for sharing it. I am slowing progressing on Bicentennial Bigfoot, but it is slow going and I don’t know that I will make the July deadline I gave myself. But we will see.

    PS – I will try harder next year to get in one of your games at ChaosiumCon, it didn’t feel right having this broken tradition.

    1. Keeper Doc says:

      Congratulations on your accomplishment! Wish I could have offered more comprehensive material, and I’m thrilled to have been of some assistance.

      Best of luck as you continue writing. Whether you make that deadline or not, I have no doubt the end effort will be fantastic. I look forward to seeing another Washington State scenario hit the Repository!

      I missed you both at the table in 2024. Always a pleasure to game with you, and there will be a seat for you next year.

  3. MJRRPG says:

    Those bullet points are worth printing out and sticking to a wall over the writing desk. In particular:
    – Do not trade fun for work. If it feels like work, step back and re-evaluate.
    Looking forward to more write ups on… writing from you!

  4. NRSASD says:

    Hello! I’m a long time D&D player (1st edition at age 6) who has recently decided to branch out into Call of Cthulhu for the first time in no small part due to this website. I picked up the Masks campaign based on its reputation as one of the finest campaigns around and our group is having a blast playing it; we’re on our fourth month of weekly sessions already!

    Your resources have been absolutely invaluable, between the specific advice on certain scenes, suggestions on how to spice things up, and especially the expanded lore regarding tomes. As a DM new to the system, this has really helped me figure out how all these non-Euclidean puzzle pieces snap together.

    All of this is to say, thank you very much for the work you’ve put into this website. It’s been an absolute treasure trove of good ideas and answers to questions I didn’t know I had. May the lovecraftian shadows and dread be ever exciting; never depressing!


    1. Keeper Doc says:

      Thank you for your kind words! So glad you have found something to help you take the leap into the Crawling Chaos.

  5. Poul says:

    This rings true on so many levels. Thank you for sharing the thoughts with us.

    And a belated thanks for all the amazing work on the MON entreis. I know Ihave abuse it a lot in my campaign. Players are finaly nearing the end of it and it will be awesome to have completed a full playthrough of it.

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