While waiting at CVS for a new round of pink eye prescriptions to be filled, I read a Rolling Stone interview with Lena Dunham, my current celebrity crush.
By the end of the article, my obsession had waned. Of course, I have never met Dunham and have no idea what she is like in “real life.” Perhaps the writer had a creative agenda that painted her in an inaccurate way. But she came across as one of those annoying celebrities who boasts about what a strange, misunderstood, phobia-driven outsider she is, while at the same time craving Sally Field “you like me! You really like me!” style attention. I am able to forgive her a little bit for this- she’s twenty six after all, and the creative mind behind one of the most talked about sitcoms in recent history. If that was my story, my ego would have probably physically consumed my body, leaving only a mouth to endlessly talk about myself.
The timing of the article was perfect in a way I really hate. I read it just as I was having an internal dialogue about my own fixation on the need for approval.
I usually have a bit of depression following the completion of any major project. There are a few reasons for this. My personality designates that I need to have something to do all the time. I feel lost and slightly without purpose in the space between finishing a project and starting a new one. I also usually have a big final push to complete a project. Of course, those marathon sessions leave me drained and exhausted. It takes a day or two to recharge.
But if I am truly honest, I feel let down when I release my project to the world, and it is not received in the way I want it to be. I create art for myself, because I cannot stop myself from engaging in the process. I release it because I hope it will resonate with others. When that fails to happen, it hurts me. It shouldn’t. It shouldn’t matter. But it does.
I hate how beholden I am to social media. Yesterday, I posted the video I made for “The Cuckoo Song.” For much of the day, it sat, unnoticed. And sat. And then got two “likes”- one of which was from my mother. I wrote an end blog about the process. When checking my Word Press stats, I noticed it got read by three people. I also noticed someone was directed to my blog looking for pictures of women with boob sweat. Ugh, people have more interest in my sweaty tits than in the project it took me a couple of months to complete. Perhaps I should just start “The Daily Stain,” a collection of photos of my various sweaty bits- I certainly have the glands for it.
Of course, even caring about my “likes” and stats made me feel beyond pathetic. It’s like writing a note asking “do you like-like me?” and getting it back with the “no” box checked. It’s stupid, I know that. But it is not the first dumb thing I have fallen prey to.
I am fully aware this comes across as a big pity party for me, but when I started this blog, I did so with the intention to write honestly. We can’t be noble every day of our lives- at least I can’t. I think I sometimes come across as almost brazenly motivated and optimistic. There is a flip side to that. Today is one of those days when I want to curl up in a sweater, forget to brush my teeth, and try to make myself disappear into the sofa.
Maybe it is my sunshiney-nature, but after moping for an hour or two, I immediately began to internally pep talk. Ok, my video didn’t get 50 likes. But it did get noticed by the people who I made it for. Nearly every project I work on is made with an audience in mind, usually a specific person or two. I made the video for my bandmates, a couple of musicians, and the friend who inspired the idea. All of those people loved it.
I impressed my husband, who is notoriously confused by most of my artwork.
In a fit of attention seeking, I emailed my creative guru, Bob, to get a shot in the arm. He responded back with this:
“you love it right? the process of making it was rewarding yes? your boys ask to see it?
NEVER let lack of interest from people who are not involved determine your worth as an artist. they do not imbue your art with value, YOU DO.”
Which is of course, perfect advice and exactly what I need a guru for.
I have been in the process of editing some pieces for a collaborative book on music as a tool. I wrote my piece a few weeks ago, but have been letting it sit before re-reading it- giving it some time to sit so I could look at it with fresh eyes.
Timing is everything, because I when I read the piece this morning, it was exactly what I needed to hear. It was like a bad 80’s movie, where future Kat meets up with present-day Kat to offer insight and perspective before zipping back to her own time. In the piece, I ended by describing the first original song I ever recorded with Bob, and how the journey to that act changed the entire course of my life. I wrote:
“Looking back, everything good in my life seems to have stemmed from that moment. I know it sounds dramatic and inauthentic to say, but that single act gave me the confidence to never feel like I had to look to someone else to know who I am.”
Reading those words gave me the boost that I needed. It isn’t about approval. It isn’t about reception. It is the joy, confidence, and wisdom gained from the process- something I of course know, but needed to be reminded of.
I can sit here typing and boo-hooing, or I can get back to what I do- being completely overwhelmed with pouring my heart into projects that I love. The later certainly sounds more enjoyable. Besides, you can’t keep a good narcissist down. I’m a legend in my own mind, if no one else’s.