Is it possible to regain the passion I felt towards creating in my youth?
The only things that seem to get sharper with age are the sensitivity of your joints and lower back; your body and mind are both on a one-way trip to placidity.
Back in elementary school, I used to practically drool over the science experiment kits that came with Gakken’s educational magazine for kids. But now? Remembering how the tadpole shrimp’s eggs grew mold instead of hatching just makes my heart and t-zone shrivel up. In my 20s, every time I saw a new fad diet product, I’d think “if I take this, I’ll lose 20 kg and somehow my face will start to look like Satomi Ishihara’s!” But now I view those same products skeptically, and think “even if this really is a miracle drug that’ll make me lose 20 kg and turn into Satomi Ishihara, let’s be real. I don’t have the dedication to keep taking it regularly.”
In regards to drawing as well, I’ve been a fanart creator for as long as I can remember. Whenever I encountered a character that resonated with me, I would find myself overcome with the impulse like “I absolutely must draw a plethora of bust portraits of this character from a 45 degree left-facing angle,” and then promptly do just that.
Nowadays, however, I’ve started feeling like “drawing it myself is too much of effort” even about my favorite characters. So now if I encounter a character that appeals to me, I’ll usually do a search to see if there’re any famous fan artists who specialize in drawing that character or search “(character name) R-18” on pixiv, basically eliminate my need to create art completely.
In this way, the more I age, the more my passion towards everything has faded and been surpassed by the feeling that everything is a pain in the butt, drawing included. Whenever I decide to try watching a new movie to increase my consumption of new materials, I find myself thinking, “I have to start all over again trying to tell the difference between Jason Statham and Bruce Willis? What a pain!” I end up just watching Devilman again for the umpteenth time. And even when I log into pixiv to read other peoples’ work, it always ends up with me scrolling through my bookmarked works and thinking, “I must’ve read all of these a bajillion times already!”
In short, it’s important to recognize that “this is a naturally-occurring and unavoidable aspect to ageing.”
Is it possible to slow down the dulling of your senses?
However, while it may be true that this is an inevitable part of aging, focusing too heavily on it is akin to looking in the mirror every morning and remarking on how you’re starting to resemble the elderly portraits of your ancestors in the family Buddhist shrine.
Aging is inescapable, but you could also say that it’s best to “always strive to be healthy and youthful.”
When it comes to creative work, don’t worry so much about your output and instead focus on input, consuming as many types of materials as possible. I, too, feel relaxed and peaceful watching Devilman, even though I’ve seen it so many times already. But when I’m watching it, my brain and facial expression are both completely blank. They were blank the first time I saw it, and only continue to remain so. Basically, I don’t get any “stimulation” from this movie.
If I keep doing this, it only adds fuel to a negative cycle of not consuming new material→ not being stimulated→ mind and feelings grow even more dull→ creating becomes even less fun than before.
It’s normal for your emotions to dull with age, but there are things you can do to slow down the process. Much like you might force yourself to drink disgusting “green juice” because it’s good for your health, you should also make a point of seeking out new material. Even when it seems troublesome, the effort will help stave off mental deterioration and the dulling of your emotions.
If you keep telling yourself, “I’ll watch this movie when I have the time,” you’ll never actually get around to it, so you have to be a little forceful with yourself.
For the most part, when middle-aged and elderly otaku say they can’t be bothered to watch new anime these days, what they really mean is they can’t be bothered to press the play button. If they’d just put their mind to it and press start, by the time the opening credits are over, they’d already have provisionally determined who their favorite character is and which coupling they support. It may not be as great as before, but it will give you inspiration. If you’re an artist, you’ll likely find yourself unconsciously thinking, “I want to write something like this,” or, “if I’d written the story, it would’ve happened like this.”
So if you can shift from putting it off until you “have the time” and make a habit of “watching one new movie and reading one new book every month,” you can stave off the dulling of your tastes, the same way you might go for acupuncture once a month. By periodically receiving stimulation, your desire to create might also regain some of its youthful vigor.
That said, you also shouldn't obsess over the days of your youth
However, there’s a big difference between trying to stay healthy and youthful despite your physical age, and idealizing the days of your youth.
It’s fine to try to seem younger than you are, but it’s not only impossible, but probably mentally unhealthy to think, “I want to still look like I’m 18 when I reach my 60th birthday, and when all my former high school classmates are wearing their dopey red chanchanko (a special outfit Japanese traditionally wear to celebrate their 60th), I’m going to show up dressed in battle girl cosplay!”
Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not suggesting it’s unhealthy to wear battle girl cosplay in your 60s. The problem here is excessively resisting the natural occurrence of “aging.” As for battle girl cosplay, if you still want to do it when you’re 100, I say go for it!
Therefore, I think it’s best that you don’t get overly fixated on “the passion and enjoyment you had for writing in your teens and 20s.” In the end, that kind of thinking will only lead you to thoughts that criticize your present self, such as “those were the days” and “I used to be capable of so much more.”
But I’m also not saying, “at your age, you should give up already.”
Recently, “grey hair” has become a fashion trend. This hairstyle consists of not using artificial means to dye your gray hair and instead, letting it remain natural. This doesn’t mean “giving in” to old age, far from it. This style emphasizes “enjoying old age” and embracing gray hair as something you couldn’t grow naturally when you were younger.
By the same token, what if you stopped nostalgically trying to reclaim the writing style of your youth and instead, tried to determine what writing style works best for you in the present?
For example, in my youth, I was certainly very passionate. The speed and quantity of my work was exceptional, but I also felt an inexplicable pressure to draw every single day. Furthermore, if someone were to tell me, “I love your work so much, I’m binge-reading it!” I would probably cry with happiness. But I’d also feel an excessive amount of pressure, thinking, “I have to draw the continuation of this series quickly, or that person will lose interest, but I’m not confident that what I draw will live up to their expectations.”
On the other hand, nowadays when I’m told, “I’m looking forward to the next installment!” I’m able to respond with, “Thanks! But I get tired after 11 pm these days, so you might be waiting a while. Feel free to read others’ work while you wait!” because I’ve developed a peaceful relationship with my work. I didn’t have this when I was younger.
In this way, although there are certainly some things you’ve lost, there are surely some you’ve only been able to gain now in your 30s. Try to focus on those.
Not only limited to creative work, but for life in general. If you celebrate what you’ve gained instead of bemoaning the things you’ve lost, your life will be much more enjoyable.