May the Fourth be with you: How Star Wars saved my creativity

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Happy Star Wars Day! Whether you roll your eyes at the Force/Fourth pun or embrace the excuse to pull out the memes, there’s no denying that this franchise—this story—has found another way to make itself a part of our life and culture.

Star Wars has been a part of my own life for years, and not without major impact. I’m pretty sure there’s nothing else that has so deeply, consistently inspired my creative journey. From my drawings before I had actually seen Star Wars to the spark that the new movies reawakened in me, there’s never been a time that I’ve felt my most creative without  Star Wars right there playing its part.

Here is my tribute of memories to the story that helped shape mine.

1: Wookies and family went hand in hand.

Star Wars was actually showing up in my art before I even watched the movies for the first time. When my sister and I were quite young, we were left up in our rooms one evening while my parents and uncle watched a Star Wars movie or two. We didn’t know how much we were missing out on, but we did decide to join the fun in our own way by drawing pictures for my uncle. We knew about characters like Chewbacca, so we drew portraits of the Wookie and his family members, whom we invented and named Lewbacca, Suebacca, Dewbacca, and the like.

We eventually watched the movies and learned much more about Chewie’s background, but my uncle kept those crayon drawings taped to his closet door for years, a reminder of the first time Star Wars sparked my imagination.

2: A shared love of Star Wars became shared stories and shared lives.

High school was rough, even for a happily-introverted homeschooler, and I credit Star Wars with helping me get through the drama. When I was around fourteen, a friend who was a few years younger invited me to join her Star Wars club. At first, it started out with nothing but a group of kids all choosing a character to represent. I was Anakin, because let’s be honest—there was a lot there for a moody fourteen-year-old girl to relate to!

Excited to have something to obsess over, I quickly started a group newsletter, and just as quickly, my friend handed over presidency of the club to me. Our newsletters, which I laid out and edited, were a collection of articles, stories, and artwork by club members who ranged in age from 4 to 14. We were more than a little proud of what we made, and our imaginations ran wild.

Those newsletters became serial stories, and those serial stories became group chat stories on our own private website, and those three years with my Star Wars club because three years with a “family” that stuck with me and listened to me when life was, well, high school. Star Wars was my safe place to be creative without filter or fear of what people would think.

3: A simple Star Wars novel intro became my definition of story.

Revenge of the Sith NovelWhen Revenge of the Sith came out, it was met with mixed reactions from longtime fans, many of whom were hoping for something a little better than Hayden Christensen’s character to give them their Vader origin story. Thankfully, Matthew Stover’s novelization of the film did everything the movie didn’t, and it quickly became one of my favorite books.

On every read-through, I screamed in agony at Anakin as he made choice after choice that led him to the inevitable outcome: Make a difference decision here, and things could be different. Go the other way now, and it’s not too late to not tear the galaxy apart. I knew that nothing was going to change what happened, but I hoped every time that something would.

Stover’s pre-intro to the story put in words what I was feeling, and it also forever changed the way I see stories in general:

“This story happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. It is already over. Nothing can be done to change it.
It is a story of love and loss, brotherhood and betrayal, courage and sacrifice and the death of dreams. It is a story of the blurred line between our best and our worst.
It is the story of the end of an age.
A strange thing about stories
Though this all happened so long ago and so far away that words cannot describe the time or the distance, it is also happening right now. Right here.
It is happening as you read these words.
This is how twenty-five millennia come to a close. Corruption and treachery have crushed a thousand years of peace. This is not just the end of a republic; night is falling on civilization itself.
This is the twilight of the Jedi.
The end starts now.”

What can I add to those words? There’s nothing else to be said. Stories happen now.

4: Gaming as my own new Star Wars characters let me live creativity again.

College was rough on my creativity. That’s how a writing degree works—when people start judging your creativity and giving it a grade, that creativity can shrivel up and die. I learned a ton of great stuff about craft, but my heart quit singing. I lost my connection to people, characters, and even myself. Several years post-college, my creativity was slowly coming back, but then my friends introduced me to Fantasy Flight’s Edge of the Empire tabletop RPG system. In a game that’s all about telling a story with a group of friends, I got to reach back to that place where the line between living and writing a story blurred.

Edge of the Empire bookOver a year or two, I got to play three different characters, all of my own invention: a slave-turned-bounty-hunter-turned-Force-groupie who discovered that true love can eventually overcome fear of intimacy, a mercenary who blamed herself for her Jedi sister’s death and set out to prove that she could do everything on her own without ever, ever reaching for the Force potential within her, and a human replica droid who took her programming as a medic very seriously even as she struggled with her own personhood and the question of what makes someone (or something) alive. As I played each character, I felt like I was finally living a story again.

5: As the Force called to a new audience, Star Wars called me back to myself.

When The Force Awakens was released, I was excited and scared. What would Disney do with a universe that was so much a part of my being? They had already messed up a lot in my mind by dismissing the whole expanded universe as non-canon. While a lot of people disliked how the new movie went back and so closely followed the original Star Wars storyline and themes from A New Hope, I liked what they did because it did more than bring viewers back to an old story—it continued to help bring me back to me.

I had goosebumps listening to Han tell Finn and Rey, “Crazy thing is… it’s true. The Force, the Jedi. All of it. It’s all true.”  Later, Maz’s words to Rey were like a reminder to me: “The light—it’s always been there. It will guide you.” I don’t literally believe that Star Wars and its philosophies are true, but the characters still spoke to me. Their message reminded me to live, create, and get back in touch with all the parts of myself that stress had overwhelmed—it reminded me that there is still magic to be discovered and used.

May creativity be with you… always.

May the Fourth has come again, and with it, a reminder of what I love about story. I love being able to share a love of the Star Wars story with so many of you, and I know that there are countless other stories out there that have inspired you to be the creative individuals that I have the privilege of getting to know. Has Star Wars been a part of your life? Have other stories impacted your writing, art, or imagination in other big ways? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below.

Either way, thank you for letting me share my story with you, and have a very happy Star Wars Day! May the Fourth be with you, and creativity too.

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One Response to May the Fourth be with you: How Star Wars saved my creativity

  1. Amanda says:

    Love this! Star Wars has been a huge influence on me, too–one of my more consistent and lasting influences.

    And, yes–I think Stover’s Revenge of the Sith novelization is vastly underrated. So much richer than the movie. It gave me chills.

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