I took apart my set today.
I read something in a magazine about a college student who slept outside every night. He packed up a sleeping bag, walked for ten minutes or so, and camped out in the woods every single evening. I don’t remember the exact quote, but when asked why he did it, he said it was to feed his soul or something akin to that.
Over the past couple of weeks, I have devoted countless hours to creating a miniature forest. I collected branches and rocks while hiking with my sons. I made play doh and fashioned it into tiny mushrooms. I used the dough and rocks to form a landscape and constructed trees with cuts of the branches and paper. The process of crafting it took up a good deal of my free time. I photographed it for stills and a stop motion video- eating away more hours.
It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever made and today I threw most of it in the trash.
I wish I could say I captured it in my photographs, but I didn’t. I am not a great artist. I am not even a good one. I am a wannabe. Nearly every project I work on, there is some aspect that is not quite right. I’m sure if you talk to any artist, they will say the same. But I feel different somehow- like my ideas exceed my capabilities. There is just always some piece that doesn’t quite fall into place. In this case, I made this gorgeous landscape. I liked every thing about it. But no one will ever see how pretty it really was- I didn’t have the skills behind the camera to make it happen.
Still, I was pleased with what I did. It was shaky and amateur, but I liked it. I smiled when I watched it, and felt love for having made it- until I released it to the public.
Many years ago, I had a conversation with my brother on this topic. He is a musician. He gave me the basic “suck it up” speech. He has played for crowds of thousands, and he has played for huddles of crickets. What if you never get the chance to play for a crowd though? What if even the crickets don’t take notice?
I posted my piece to social media, just like millions of hack artists. Two people “liked” it- my in-laws. Two more liked the stills. The set- this beautiful wonderland that filled my heart with joy- did not even register a blip. I posted a photograph of me in new pants that got more attention.
My emotions are draining me. I feel pathetic for even registering how many people did not “like” my thing. I didn’t expect the world to stop rotating because I made a shitty movie. I simply thought the people who knew me, KNEW me, would understand it meant something to me- not to anyone else, but to me. I thought they would like it for my sake, and I hoped maybe because it was somehow slightly enjoyable.
In fairness, I post too many things. Every day I have an idea, a photograph, of something I’m working on- something I need to be “liked.” There is something broken in me- some child begging for validation.
What if I had never posted the piece? What if I lived in times when that wasn’t a thing? Not every artist has a gallery show. What did people do with their terrible works prior to a digital platform to clamor for attention?
Simple. They showed them to people who visited their homes- close friends and family. Or they found happiness in creating without needing to be noticed.
Some of what I am feeling is a residual consequence of my kids going to school this week. When I wasn’t working on my movie, I was painting baseboards. If my creative projects are not worthy of attention, does that mean I should resign myself to baseboards and similarly mundane tasks? How am I of value? Who am I, now that I not on call every second of every day? I never thought I would be that person, but it kind of feels like that. I don’t see myself as a woman who doesn’t know who she is without kids, and only exists for the sake of being a mom. But I feel a bit empty right now- an emotion I hadn’t anticipated.
Why am I writing all of this? It is not to stake my claim to the title of most pathetic narcissist. I just don’t know how to process without writing, without talking. Some people close off. I try that for a couple of days. Then my thoughts burst from my lips in an impulsive, undeniable flood. I can’t seem to let them go until they are out of me. Exorcism by typing. And I hate when people are bothered by something and refuse to talk. I like to know what is going on with the people I care about. I assume there are people who care for me and want to know when I am down.
But I’ve also been thinking about this online thing. I was happy when the movie was just for me. I liked it. Only when I gave it life on the web did I become the pathetic, needy mess writing this post.
The thing is- it’s not real. Would it be good if twenty people “liked” it? Would it be great if a hundred people did? Is it less because most people either didn’t watch it, didn’t like it, or didn’t care? It’s the same movie. I liked it. I can get throw a tantrum over friends and family not paying attention, but even that isn’t real. I got upset because my husband didn’t go to my page and watch it when he knew it was done. But if it was important to me, important enough for my feelings to be in a tussle, I wouldn’t have expected him to find it- I would have said “Here is my movie. Check it out.” My hurt is because of me and my reliance on media to deliver, track, and rate my emotions.
I’ve spent the last two days offline for the most part. Journaling a little, drawing a lot. I find comfort in the act of creating shapes. My instinct was to photograph the drawings, to write about the process. I refrained until now. But I did show them to my sons. And we drew together. I told Liam that drawing was a thing that made me really happy and he said “me too.” He then asked if when he was grown up, if we could go on a date and draw together. That moment was real and I saw my folly in expecting anything even close to it from a “like” button.
Today, he made his first stop motion movie. He ran around the couch with joy when he got a difficult sequence to work. He is five years old. He made the movie and it made him happy. I thought “that’s what I need to be doing.”
So I’m not boycotting social media, or pledging not to write another blog. I’m just taking a step back and opening a space to breathe. I anticipate this to be my last entry for awhile and for my online time to decrease considerably.
It is sad, and feels really horrible to admit, but for a person like me that craves praise, the ease of measuring your value according to your profile views is just too tempting and damaging. For awhile, the act was worth it. For years, I guarded my work for fear of it being ridiculed. I felt courageous when I was able to face the inevitability of someone “kicking my baby”. But once I began putting myself out there, I created a new monster- not being able to stop, not having any amount of praise be enough.
For now, thank you for reading my blog. I appreciate it beyond any words I can type. Be kind, and create more. Give love and forget the rest.