The Death of Creativity / Day 39 of 365

Back in 2012, I was a creative super-machine. I finished a 365 project the year prior and had just bought my dream camera. It seemed like every week I was doing something crazy and new. I regularly dragged friends into frozen creeks, through stinging nettles, and into the wild recesses of my world. My camera lived on my shoulder and, like my mind, it was always fully charged.

I vividly remember having a late night conversation with Jake back then. He was one of the first artists that I was close to – and the one who really pushed me to create, no matter what crazy ideas I had. Our conversations usually centered around critiquing art that the other had made.

On this particular night, I was really pushing Jake to start blogging. Beyond consuming my life with photography, I had bloomed into blogging. It was almost October and I was participating in an annual ‘Blogtober’. I’ll never forget what Jake said to me that night;

“There’s so much stuff already out there already – I don’t want to contribute to the noise.”

Jake is about 5 years my senior and, unlike me, had been creating across every medium. I knew him as a photographer, a sculptor, a painter – one of the first interactions I had with him was at a church over-nighter. We went bowling and I spent the night talking with him. As we talked, he took out his sketchbook and drew a charcoal picture of me.

I think that artists typically remember their birth into art. This was the beginning for me.

When Jake said he didn’t want to contribute to the noise anymore, it was although I had woken up even though I was already awake. Suddenly I saw noise everywhere. There was too much information out in the world and I became self-conscious.

That was my death.

A weed was planted that night and I’ve spent the last 5 years pulling them up. “Is what I’m creating worth being put out there?” sprung up from the corner of my beautifully cultivated garden. Soon thereafter, “Am I really contributing or just creating junk?”. I wasn’t quick enough to pull these weeds out. I was in deep trouble when the “Am I bothering people by putting my art in front of their faces?” arrived.

Soon the weeds overtook the garden, and although I plant new flowers occasionally, they’re dwarfed by self-consciousness. At 18 years old, I didn’t have the capacity to understand this. I only saw that I was ‘making noise’. That was my creative death.

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/Ifit6xW8UCY?rel=0

39/365

 

 

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More Artist Dilemma/Complaints

It seems I’ve hit an odd point in my artistic life. After completing two 365 projects, I feel well versed in regularly producing work and publishing online. I’ve had the opportunity to get to know many incredible artists and watch them grow.

Originally, many of these artists published their work on Flickr. Which is where I interacted with them almost exclusively until 2012. There was a shift in the website and many artists abandoned Flickr. Instead, we decided to add each other on Facebook.

Our interactions changed from being about photography. On Facebook, we got to see one another’s daily life. I absolutely loved this. Instead of only getting to see the art, we suddenly got to see the entire person. A person who went out and took pictures with friends, who wrote statuses about their struggles, and who communicated to the world in a different way.

It was an excellent experience to get to know these artists in a more dynamic way.

As time went on, a divide started to occur. Artists who pursued their craft full time produced large amounts of work. I watched many of my friends achieve success at this time. Those who went to school or who focused on their careers seemed to disappear, occasionally producing art. These two groups of artists – the ones who created regularly and those that created semi-regularly, dominated my NewsFeed.

Most of my “real life” friends were unfollowed or pushed out by these media monster-houses. Their work was initially inspiring. I wanted to go out and produce art and share it with them. Over time, these contacts grew out of touch. I started working full-time and lost contact with them for a few months. I became one of the artists who posted rarely.

Most of my artist friends continued to post work more regularly than me and grew in popularity. I watched their work go from having 10 likes to 200 to 600 on every post. I was proud of them. Many of them went freelance and started building clientele. It shocks me how many of my friends got into wedding photography.

The popularity felt like it created a divide from the little leaguers like me. I wanted to initiate conversations but I didn’t know what to talk to them about. They felt too important to talk to. I felt like I was wasting their time if I had casual conversations with them.

Somewhere along the lines, I lost contact with my “real life” friends. My entire NewsFeed was made up of artists until last night. I went through and refollowed my friends. I felt frozen and unable to share my work. Constantly seeing such beautiful and perfect work made sharing my own work feel daunting.

I know it’s a personal problem. Oh boo hoo, you don’t feel good enough. But I’m writing this to address it in myself. I need to overcome the anxiety I have about sharing imperfect work. Blogging is part of that. God I know that these posts are long and boring but I’m working on it.

It’s just so hard to share when I know great writers. It’s hard to share my travel photography when I know great travel photographers. Why would anyone look at my work when there’s already so many fantastic artists out there? Want a great conceptual fine artist? I know twenty of them. Want a great blogger? I know three. It’s hard to produce work when you don’t feel any demand for you to do it.

At this point, I’m producing work for myself. I want to share. This is imperfect, it’s flawed. I’ve written too much on a niche subject. Very few people will relate to what I’m writing. But I feel compelled to produce it anyways. Maybe that all I need for now.

In other news, I’m thinking about participating in Blogtober. It’s only 31 days and it could be a breath of fresh air. Heck, maybe I’ll invite Tabitha. It’ll be a party!

Artist Block and General Anxiety

It feels horrible to hit a point where you no longer feel creative. Where no fresh ideas flow through your mind. Artist blocks are terrifying. You don’t know what to create because you don’t have substance. It’s like you have an itch and you want to scratch it but you don’t know where on your body it is. In a block, I’m just blindly clawing at myself until I find how to relieve the itch.

It’s as though I have this intense emotion inside of me and I can’t relieve it. Words can’t express it. I can’t tell you how I feel because it’s more intense than that. I have to create something that properly communicates the emotion. It’s frustrating. I claw and grapple at any way that insane itch can be extinguished.

That’s what a block feels like to me. It’s desperate, generally filled with frustration, and the bane of my artistic existence. Even writing this has been exhausting. I’m scratching at myself trying to find the right way to tell you what it feels like. If that’s not a conundrum, I don’t know what is.

Blocks feel insane because you start with nothing. In your head, you have an emotion. There is no physical equivalent of what you feel. To give birth to that emotion, you have to find what physically exists and mold it into what matches your head. For writers, it’s finding the right word; painters, it’s the right color or stroke; for photographers, it’s finding the right angle or lighting. No matter the medium, you have to find a way to make an intangible emotion into something others can see and feel.

The types of artistic blocks can vary. Sometimes it feels like you have this monstrous emotion inside of you and the only way to prevent it from consuming you is to give it birth. Other times it feels like you need to create but you don’t have anything to give. You’re ready to create, you’ve got the resources, full stocks of paint… but no emotion to cover the canvas.

Now that you understand how desperate and terrifying these blocks can feel like, I want to show you the opposite side. This was actually the reason I started writing tonight:

For the last 2 years I’ve been afraid that I’ll run out of emotion.

It sounds silly but not all feelings are intense enough to create with. Mediocre love doesn’t produce the same art that passionate love does. There isn’t room for mediocrity. Ultimately I’m afraid of being starved of that intensity. So… I’ve been hoarding the emotions.

The passionate love and intense heartbreak that I had last year, I can’t let it go. I’m afraid that if I do, I’ll starve. That I’ll run dry. I’ll have all the resources; models to shoot with, locations to work with, but no BANG of creative energy to go along with it.

Everywhere I go, I carry that heartbreak with me. I put it into a bag of emotions on my hip labelled “feelings I’d like to create with”. Attached to the side there’s a note that reads: “open cautiously, emotions may overwhelm”. Usually that’s what happens. The bag is so full that everywhere I go, it spills a little here and there.

I once read that the mind is like a cup of tea. If you want fresh tea, you have to pour the old stuff out. Otherwise, your cup will overflow and create a mess. There is no use is keeping the old tea, even if it once was delicious. Everything goes stale over time. Carrying around that extra emotion is an unnecessary burden.

I carry too many painful emotions in hopes that one day I’ll be able to create with them. Deep down, I know beautiful things can come out of horrible experiences, so I dream of transforming them. I want to change the difficult times into beautiful works of art – but it’s not necessary. Some of life is just suffering.

All in all, this is a reminder to let go. Don’t be terrified of the blocks. They come and pass naturally. I’ve carried way too many emotions far past their expiration. Empty your cup of tea so you can experience the next batch.

Work is Exhausting

There are days where creating is difficult. Where I work, people don’t create. They spend more time ingesting media than they do contributing. This isn’t to say that they are worse off, it’s just a difficult environment to be a content creator in. It isn’t conducive to the lifestyle that I want to have.

Working 45 hours a week drains you and if you’re not highly motivated, you’re probably not creating. When I was going to school, I had time to talk with artists. We could critique each other’s work and talk about our plans. When we had an idea, we could ping it off in conversation. Where I’m at now, I’m too exhausted at the end of the day.

I can’t wait to leave this job in a few years. Go back with the artists and create blogs and vlogs, and paint, and draw, and get back into photography. If I could cut this job in half; make half the money and work half the time – I would. But for now, I’ll keep creating like this because I don’t know what else to do.

353/365

Quality or Quantity

Is it better to have quality content or to have lots of content? Often on YouTube, users that make great videos only have a few of them. While content creators that make mediocre content tend to have an endless amount of videos. For a very long time I thought it was better to have more videos than less high quality videos.

What this means as an artist/content creator is; having high quality work is more valuable than having low quality work. It’s also better to have a larger portfolio than a smaller one. Therefore it’s best to have a large body of work that is high quality. However, it’s extremely difficult to combine the two.

Artist tend to have a problem: we always want better quality work. When we create something that is beautiful and perfect, we want to create something that is more beautiful and more perfect. It doesn’t matter what the previous quality was, as long as the next is better. This drives progress because it forces the creators to motivate themselves to produce better content, thus increasing skill.

However, it often is intermixed with unhappiness and dissatisfaction. We have difficulty accepting our work and being proud of our products. Sometimes we create crap content. Everyone does.

Anyways, for a long time I thought it was better to have more content. More content means that you could explore more areas and find what you like best. It also means that you have a larger portfolio which could cater to a larger group of consumers. By creating a lot of work, you grow significantly.

However, mass production doesn’t always drive improvement. This blogging project is about creating a large body of content. Its purpose is to teach me how to write. By sitting down each night and finding a topic to talk about, I’m learning a skill. At the same time, writing daily doesn’t give me time to edit, or really think about concepts. It’s very much a produce, produce, produce, mindset.

As the last two weeks come about, I’ve been getting this sickened feeling in my stomach. This blogging project took a lot of time. It’s produced 350 blog posts so far and more than 120,000 words. Overall, this is the most I’ve written in my life.

The last days though, I’ve been reflecting. This year has been full of adventures. I’ve recorded some of them in blog posts and others in pictures. The mass quantity has forced me to learn how to write about any situation at any given time. Which is a great skill but I can’t help but feel that it’s also been a poison. Right now I’m rambling. There is purpose to this text but nothing that is worth editing. Mass quantity breeds ignorance of the process.

This work isn’t great. It’s just work. At the end, I don’t know how many posts I will keep up. I learned from it but it’s not something I want to show off. The lesson was learned and I’ve grown from it but this isn’t my portfolio. It’s not a complete version of myself.

A couple years ago, a photographer I loved removed all of her work from Flickr. I was absolutely devastated. Her work was a huge inspiration. The photos she posted were one of the reasons that I started taking photos myself. I didn’t know what to do when I couldn’t look through her work.

I was devastated and vowed that I would never remove my work. I wanted others to be able to see my growth. They could also look through a large body of work. Perhaps they would see that I’m human and they could create too.

As this project halts, I don’t want to display my content. I want to remove it and start fresh. It takes a lot to start from scratch but I don’t like this content. It’s not polished. I can’t share it with everyone. It’s imperfect.

I can’t answer whether having a large body of work is better or worse than having a higher quality of work. That’s something you have to decide. Would you rather put a lot of time into creating one excellent piece or five pieces? When you go online, would you rather see five mediocre videos of your favorite YouTuber or one awesome video? It’s something you’ll have to decide for yourself: quality or quantity?

350/365

Creating Content

As I sit in our dorm’s community room, I can’t help but look at the others in here who, like me, are scrounging for the free internet. There’s four of us sitting here in each corner of the room, all staring at our computer screens. Two of the guys are watching videos while the other one is playing an online game. They sit entranced by the content that they are viewing and it makes me think about this generation.

With how much focus we put into ingesting internet media, what is our output? The average viewer on YouTube doesn’t make videos. People view so much more content than they create. Think about how many people you’re following on Twitter, Instagram, or how many friends you have on Facebook. What is your view-to-create ratio?

I don’t want to suggest that ingesting media is bad but I can’t help but wonder what we’re contributing. Social media is incredibly interactive and you now have the ability to contact the content creators you admire, yet most people don’t interact with these people. Instead we just wait for more content.

I think that the underlying feeling is “why create in a world full of creators?”. Most people think that they don’t have anything to contribute and therefore they don’t try it. Our generation, in reality, is closer to the stars than any previous generation, yet we also feel the most powerless towards them. You could FB message, Tweet, Instagram, or comment on YouTube to almost any star and maybe get a response.

I don’t have an answer on why you should create or why I create. I just do. Sometimes the content is great, sometimes it’s incredibly boring. But it’s interesting how we live is such a free world but we’re so paralyzed by everything. It’s like sensory overload and too much to handle.

326/365

21/31 Blogtober

Make a list, check it twice

It seems that every successful creative person I’ve met has some way of doing the same thing. They all record their ideas so that they can create them in the future. When I met Brooke Shaden a few years ago, she talked about carry a notepad of ideas. Others have mentioned sketchbooks where they draw photographs they want to take. No matter what the medium, I think artists understand how fleeting ideas can be. Putting them down on paper helps us remember and develop concepts that we want to use.

In my old room, I had a collection of whiteboards hung on the wall. Each of them contained something different – quotes, lists, random thoughts. One of them was entitled “if I could do it…” and it held a bucket list of ideas that I wanted to accomplish. Another one was filled with ideas to blog about. They were invaluable for expressing myself. When I felt creative, I could go to the boards and further develop ideas I previously had.

When I moved in September, the whiteboards ended into my closet. This period also coincided with an incredibly uninspired phase. For the last month I’ve been creating less content, been less focused, and I’ve been less involved with my life. I’ve come to the realization that having blank space to fill is incredibly helpful for motivation and organization of thoughts.

Every artist finds a different way to do it but I think it’s something we all have in common. Recording our ideas helps us manage how we see the world and how we express ourselves. By having a notepad/whiteboard/sketchbook we are able to capture our fleeting ideas for future use.

See, blank space is interesting. Find a notebook and start filling it with your thoughts or doodles. What you do with blank space is what makes you who you are. If you find yourself doodling, maybe you can focus on that and create something more. If you write about your life, maybe you should expand on it. Figure out how you fill space and work from there.

317/365

14/31 Blogtober