why do i make things?

The following was originally intended as a script for a video I was planning on releasing at the end of 2018 as a part of a series of vlogs on YouTube but scrapped after producing and editing the vlog this was intended to be in. I scrapped this series as working with video felt extremely tedious and it felt embarrassing to talk into a microphone. I don’t necessarily agree with all the points within this script (in hindsight I just sound like a stereotypical ennea-type four) but I feel like this script is interesting enough to warrant being seen by the two friends I annoy enough to read my blog. I know these posts have been somewhat heavy lately, hopefully next week I’ll have something more fun and lighthearted to balance things out.

Lately it’s seemed like I’ve been making things for the wrong reasons. For nearly all of this year I’ve alternated between either thinking to myself “wow I spend all my time making stuff, isn’t this great?” and “wow I spend all my time making stuff, I wish I was normal and didn’t have to do this”. When I’m in a negative thought spiral or when I’m obsessed with trying to work out how to become normal I usually just end up thinking a lot about why I spend so much time screaming art into the void and why my life is just me trying to make things while coming across as a pretentious loser. I only really end up with one answer as to why I live my life like this.

My art is essentially just an attempt for me to deal with feelings of being inferior to everyone. I think that this feeling of inferiority stems from my lack of close personal friendships, my constantly shut-in nature, my feelings of anxiety towards basically everything, my low social status and unhealthy past relationships. This feeling of inferiority comes from not getting help, not getting the joke and not getting invited. For some reason one of the biggest things I am scared of is that by quote unquote “wasting my youth” I’ll end up becoming a broken shell of a person, always behind and always “that kid”. My thoughts towards art and creativity have pretty much always been some variation of “yeah I’m behind every single person I know but maybe if I make something cool people will eventually want to be around me or perhaps they could understand why I am the way I am”. This is a stupid mindset to have towards art, towards myself and towards life for a bunch of reasons.

Firstly, let’s just get the obvious out of the way. Nobody is actually inferior or whatever for being in a position like mine. Nobody cares if you go to the party and there’s nothing wrong with not being popular. You’re not any less of a person for having frequent anxiety attacks and you’re not below someone just because they leave the house more often. And after considering some of my issues in the past with anxiety, alienation and unhealthy relationships it’s not really a surprise that I’m not extremely social. One of the worst things about this feeling is that it’s a dumb fuckboy idea and I understand that it is yet I just can’t shake the feeling off no matter what I try. It’s stuck deep in my mind and influences a lot of my thoughts on an average day. It’s something I realize is dumb and stupid yet something I can’t get rid of.

Secondly, this mindset just ends up tainting my art. After all, instead of fully focusing on creating the best thing I’m capable of I just end up preoccupied with making something that can somehow change my circumstances and pull me out of my rut. The idea of making a piece of art so good it can somehow change who I am is a tempting one but it’s also inherently Sisyphean. Because of how impossible this task is I often just end up feeling extremely frustrated and unhappy with my creative output regardless of its quality, the effect it may have had on friends, how much effort I put into it or how productive it was to me. It’s as if I’m constantly setting myself up for failure whenever I work on anything because I will never design an album cover that’ll get rid of my anxiety attacks, I’ll never shoot a video that’d get me invited to hang out and I will never write a poem that makes me likable.

Thirdly, it’s pretty obvious that this mindset reeks of toxicity. Something about my mind correlating making good art and being deserving of social capital or being liked just seems wrong to me. It just seems entitled in an /r9k/ way and slightly predatory in a Weinstein way. Let’s say I make something decent and get a small amount of attention or hype online or off. Wouldn’t this mindset just lead to me having feelings of being superior to the people I currently feel inferior to? Would it lead to me abusing the small amount of power that I would gain? Sometimes I ask myself if people like Steve Roggenbuck or Harvey Weinstein had a similar mindset when they were young and alone. Whether if they felt inferior and outcast before gaining fame. Whether if this kind of mindset was used to internally justify their creepy behaviour. In other words, my thought process is just the pretentious art school version of the “while you partied I studied the blade” meme.

this is actually me

The worst thing about this frame of thought is that I very clearly understand how flawed and stupid it is (I literally wrote a whole blog post about it!) but it’s still submerged into my mind. Hell, I originally wrote this script while feeling sorry for myself after having an anxiety attack in public a few hours before. It’s also equally annoying how much this mindset drove my initial creative development. My first project was inspired by this mindset, I wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity to join my current collective if it wasn’t for this mindset, I wouldn’t have known how much I liked making things if it wasn’t for this mindset and you wouldn’t have been spammed this link if it wasn’t for this mindset. I honestly don’t know if I’d even consider making art if it wasn’t for these feelings of inferiority. The first major creative project I undertook was a small zine called “highpriest”. I started working on it halfway through October back in 2017 and released it on New Year’s Eve that year. During the three months in which I worked on this zine my routine was very simple – getting home from school feeling like shit, absentmindedly listening to the same three albums while doing homework, browsing dumb websites while eating Koka noodles at 11pm, meditating for ten to twenty minutes with a pirated version of headspace then writing or designing until I passed out. The project was pretty much mainly inspired and attempts to deal with this mindset in a very awkward, pretentious way. However, if it wasn’t for this admittedly underwhelming creation I would not be here today. If I hadn’t come up with the idea I wouldn’t be making things. If I didn’t have to design everything myself I wouldn’t have realized how much I enjoyed working on design projects. If I didn’t stay up and feel horrible for three months of my life I would probably still spend my life endlessly browsing the same three websites. Making highpriest and experiencing a mild feeling of accomplishment made me want to actually create things and to fill the void with raw pretention. Without it I’d be nothing and that’s troubling because it’s a direct result of these feelings of being inferior to everyone. The seed of my creativity was watered with tears of self-pity and it’s not like I can go back and change that.

I’m not really sure if I’ll ever be able to fully get rid of this mindset and it’s troubling to think that these thoughts may influence my creative output forever. It’s equally as troubling to think that these thoughts may never go away or if there’s anything I can really do to combat it besides being self-aware about it. I’m also somewhat curious as to if other creatives experience something similar to this state of mind and how they manage to deal with it. As I’m writing this out I’m reminded of the final line of Personal Helicon by Seamus Heaney, probably as I had to learn it off for an exam a few years ago. In this poem, the Irish writer talks about the nostalgic memories he had for the wells of his childhood in order to talk about what inspires him to write poetry. “I rhyme to see myself”, he says. “To set the darkness echoing”.