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Why Does Creativity Feel So Difficult?

Photo By: Richard Jones

I scheduled the time for me to write this. I planned it in advance. In my whirling brain, I committed myself to sitting down and writing about…


Creativity doesn’t always come easily to me. There are times when I sit and stare at an empty screen, waiting for an answer that never comes. Or one that comes but doesn’t satisfy.

But then there are those rare moments when that sneaky bolt hits you and charges you with enough energy to write 5 blog posts in quick succession. Or 10 pages of a play. Or that manifesto you’ve been waiting for.

It never seems to be conveniently timed or on command. Rarely when you need it. Sometimes only under the greatest of pressures. Creativity is the thing we wish for with a smile but curse when it doesn’t arrive as expected.

So, here I sit, my feet propped up on a cozy couch with a cup of mint tea at my side. My husband is writing code next to me, working on building a website. He’s good at putting his creativity to use. Meanwhile, I’m struggling.

I went to Google, because, well, where else do you go when you want answers? I searched “why is creativity so difficult?”. What I found was pretty darn interesting – and rooted in science.

All this, and more, from a squishy thing in our noggins.

I started this post feeling frustrated at my lack of inspiration – but now, I’m feeling pretty good. This block is a positive thing. I’m stretching my brain and letting it do its thing. And hey, I’ve got another post out of the experience!

I’ll enjoy the down time while I’m at it.

You know – spending a nice afternoon with a cup of tea and brain science.

If an idea comes, it comes.

I’ll wait and relax.

After all, it’s good for me. 

Letter to Self

There’s a file on my Google Drive named “Mandy’s Big Fat Wishlist”.

In it, there’s a list of things I want to do in the next few months, the next year, and then within the next 3-10 years. Somehow sitting down and actually writing out things that I want to do/see/be makes it feel more within reach.

Also, it gives me something to open up and look at when I feel unfocused. Maybe it’s a bit woo-woo, but it feels good!

One item I’m working on now is to take Unstoppable, a writing course by the incredible Alexandra Franzen.

I’m a self-help and growth junkie. I read books on how to change your mindset. If I see a blog post relating to organization, I click on it and read it (knowing full well that I probably won’t follow through on the suggestions it gives). Essentially, I am Liz Lemon walking into The Container Store thinking that if I buy all of these little boxes, tins, and bottles, I’m going to get my life in order.

Essentially, I am Liz Lemon walking into The Container Store thinking that if I buy all of these little boxes, tins, and bottles, I’m going to get my life in order.

Like her, it’s more likely I will set something on fire.

But I’m feeling good about Unstoppable so far. I’m about halfway through and enjoying the exercises. One of which (the one that inspired this post) was to set a timer for 3 minutes and write a letter to someone.

I chose myself.

I chose myself because I haven’t written to myself since high school when we were assigned to write a letter in 9th grade to our 12th grade selves.

It’s a strange and wonderful thing to write to yourself. You can reflect and give advice. To some degree, you can be more honest with yourself.

It was a gift. On one hand, I gave myself the gift of time for reflection and self-advice. On another, I gave myself something concrete – much like a big fat wishlist – that I can look back on when I feel unfocused.

A New Year is always filled with great potential. I start every January 1st feeling motivated.

For today, I feel like I’m making progress. The trick is to keep the momentum.

A letter to self from time to time might help.




In 2013, lightning struck. The New Vintage Ensemble was born out of a love for taking the work – but not ourselves – seriously. And now, we’re at it again.

“Hamlet” opens next week and I couldn’t be more thrilled about it. The countless hours, phone calls, and Google Drive documents (I’ll get to that in a minute!) have been worth it – and for so many reasons.

I have this sneaky feeling that lightning is going to strike again.

I’ve been lucky. As an ensemble member, I’m playing the roles of Francisco, Osric, and First Player. Behind the scenes, I’m supervising producer – i.e. keeper of the Google Drive. Budgets, marketing, contracts, and accounting are my shtick (and totally appeal to my type A tendencies).

We, as an ensemble, have also been lucky.  The Mall at Steamtown and Amos Towers have generously offered us rehearsal space over the past few months.

We’ve had the opportunity to work with local theater organizations and small businesses like Taney’s Costume Shop (patronize them immediately), DIVA Productions, the University of Scranton, and others to bring our vision to life.

We’ve worked with amazingly talented people like our designer, Graham Campbell, and our photographer (and my beloved Mister), Brent Pennington.

You don’t get opportunities like this often, so when they do happen, you have to thank the stardust we’re all made of for it.

And those special people. You give oodles of thanks to them, too.

Being on both sides of the stage had given me a greater appreciation for the work that goes into making something like this happen. And I love having the chance to apply things I love doing (i.e. planning, marketing, performing) in an area I love so much.

But beyond my own selfish thrills, there’s more to this “Hamlet” than I would have ever thought possible.

Our Director Casey Thomas’s vision for “Hamlet” is brilliant. There isn’t another way I can say it. He’s fearless in his direction and from the first day, we knew that we’d be doing Shakespeare in a way that was completely unexpected.

As for the cast? I’m in awe of them every night. “Hamlet” is an emotional piece, demanding a lot of actors and audience alike. But the performances my fellow friends and castmates deliver have made the hairs on my arm stand on end, my eyes well with tears, and my ribs ache from laughing so hard. They are magic.

Season's greetings from the cast of Hamlet! #nvehamlet #scranton #theater #shakespeare

A photo posted by Mandy (Boyle) Pennington (@mandyboyle_) on

But one of the most exciting things about this “Hamlet” is our venue. The New Vintage Ensemble will be working with the Scranton Cultural Center at the Masonic Temple to produce this show. They’ve graciously opened their doors to us and Shopland Hall will be home base for the next two weeks.

The minute I talked to the production team about where we’d be doing the show, I’ll be honest – I got choked up.

I never thought that I’d be doing some like this when I started acting. You know, actually producing and being in something of this magnitude. It’s humbling and makes my heart full.

I remember my first role, dressed in a purple leotard with plastic vines and flowers hot glued all over it. I was a fairy in a “Midsummer Night’s Dream” with one line. I still remember it.

But there was something about those musty curtains and bright lighting that made me come back. Again and again.

#nvehamlet #newvintageensemble

A photo posted by Mandy (Boyle) Pennington (@mandyboyle_) on

And now, here we are. We open a show in one week – in one of the most beautiful venues in Scranton. With some of the most talented people I’ve ever met. And we’re friends. And we get to do this. For real.

That is perhaps the greatest gift.

We get to do something we love and share it with you.




  • Friday, January 8 at 8:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, January 9 at 2:00 p.m. & 8:00 p.m.
  • Friday, January 15 at 8:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, January 16 at 2:00 p.m. & 8:00 p.m.


Shopland Hall
Scranton Cultural Center at the Masonic Temple
420 N. Washington Ave.
Scranton, PA


Tickets are $15 and are available via Ticketmaster at or


By Phone: During Box Office Hours 570.344.1111 and Ticketmaster Charge by Phone After Hours at 800.745.3000

In Person: Fidelity Box Office at the Scranton Cultural Center, 420 North Washington Avenue, Scranton, PA 18503

In Person: All Regional Ticketmaster Outlets, including Boscovs, Gallery of Sound and Select Walmart Locations




The labyrinth in the @marywooduniversity Rotunda. #meditation #walk

A photo posted by Mandy (Boyle) Pennington (@mandyboyle_) on

Sometimes, you leave a class you taught and need to sit in the Rotunda.

You sit. You breathe deeply. You remember.

You remember how it felt to have a few moments to yourself when you could just sit and be.

You remember the anticipation of an exam. The pain of an assignment.

You yearn for the simplicity of college, when the worst thing you had to do was wake up before 9:00 a.m. to attend a class you couldn’t stay awake for.

You wish you didn’t have the stresses you have now. The conflict. The questions.

So you walk across the campus to the Rotunda. It is cold and quiet.

Sometimes, there is a labyrinth there – a replica of one found in a cathedral. It is an act of meditation to walk it. This might be what you need.

Maybe you walk with a friend unexpectedly.

Maybe you find a moment in the quiet to feel the load lightened.

Maybe you like the feel of the canvas under your feet and the spots of warmth where there are probably pipes beneath the marble.

You have a moment where you can reflect, breathe deep, and let go of what was bothering you.

You feel better for it.

You reach the center.

Then you return. Smile.

And then you type.

Like now.

It was what you needed.

Bursty Heart Feels & Fringe

Scranton Fringe

I’ve got a case of the bursty heart feels.

What are those exactly? Well, it sort of feels like joy, pride, and gratitude – all at the same time.

My heart has a lot of feels because this week marks the launch of the Scranton Fringe Festival. Over the past year, I’ve watched this idea grow from a twinkle in someone’s eye to something so much more.

Scranton Fringe isn’t just about bringing together people in NEPA to enjoy and explore art.

It’s not just about giving artists an open and accepting stage to introduce their works to the world.

It’s not limited to giving minds the room to sparkle. To play. To dance.

It’s all of those things – and so much more – but when I think of Fringe, I see part of my own heart. Because it’s made by people I care about and it does something great for our region.

I’m proud of my friends who are the artists, the co-organizers, the directors, and the volunteers.

The people who sold buttons and shared social media posts and fangirled over the ideas we had at bars late at night.

The people who wrote a GODDAMN MUSICAL and the people who are bringing it to life with toe-tapping, puppet-making, sha-la-la-ing intensity.

The people who make us laugh. Cry. Feel. Fall in love.

The people who gave money, time, advice, and commitment.

The people who made phone calls and stored shit in their basements.

I’m grateful that I get to share in a few moments this weekend – and many weekends before and after – working with them, playing with them, sparkling with them.

Because things like this don’t happen every day. Essential as they may be, they don’t always happen. It takes a lot of work and time and effort. It’s scary to try something new. It’s challenging to make something happen in your community. It’s intimidating to have to push yourself. Especially when it’s needed.

But when those special people do, magic happens.

And that’s what Fringe is. It’s pure magic.

And if you believe in magic – in any sense of the word – you’ll be a part of it this weekend.





SOCIAL: and #ScrantonFringe


The Scranton Fringe Festival is dedicated to creating a bold and engaging platform for creative and thought provoking art with minimal risk to artist and audience. Regional as well as touring artists will be welcomed to present work with no censorship placed on content or artistic expression while striving to promote Scranton as a viable and creative environment.

All types of shows are welcomed on the fringe! You can expect to any of the following at the fringe festival: Theater, Comedy, Fashion, Burlesque, Spoken Word, Dance/Movement, Music, Film, Magic and (possibly) MORE!

40+ productions. 12 venues. 1 city. #SCRANTONFRINGE




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