I am not an outgoing person. This is a trait that represents a significant obstacle as an artist, and I’m just now beginning to see how much of my time and effort has gone towards denying these problems rather than mitigating them.
As long as I’ve been working, I’ve pursued the hermit model of effort – basically, this is the model where everyone leaves me the fuck alone, I do a good job, and everything works out. This actually worked okay when I was a paid employee, since my effectiveness could be easily measured by whether or not I accomplished the goals that were set out for me, but now that I’m self-employed? Now that I set my own goals, evaluate my own progress? It is no longer feasible.
It’s hard to hear that I’ve been doing things wrong, but every time I take a step back to think things through it’s a conclusion that is difficult to avoid.
Art is performance. It is playing a role and communicating through that role. It’s seeing your audience and touching them and being touched by them, though usually not physically for legal reasons. I have habitually avoided this and all other contact for a very long time. And, because I’ve avoided all performance and direct audience engagement, I’ve been able to convince myself that the technique of creating art is separable from the technique of presenting it to an audience in a way that it is essentially not.
The marketing is the product and the product is the marketing, to put it in the most disgusting way possible. The reason why I put it this way is to demonstrate that even sometimes very important ideas can become overgrown and diseased by the instruments of capitalistic selection, and like a swollen body part begin to seem separate from what they belong to. The moment marketing became a separate word, it became desirable for artists to separate their art from it, even though it’s just a particularly crass aspect of the hunger for an audience that unites all artists.
I’ve been watching indie games for a while, even if I haven’t been participating as much as I should have. I’ve seen who gets to be successful, and it seems most often to be the person who makes a good enough game in the right place at the right time. This isn’t the same thing as saying success is luck. Being part of a community shows you where the places and times are, tells you what time to be there and what wine to bring. Being open about your work, sharing your process and opening up your hopes to your peers and to your audience is the aspect of art that has metastasized to become marketing.
I find myself, now, standing apart from most of the things that I know contribute to success. I work reasonably hard reasonably regularly, but I rarely tell anyone what I’m doing beyond the most cursory of details. I don’t participate in development communities, don’t ask for help or try to help others, don’t collaborate on projects, don’t share my own progress. I’ve built a dam to try to hold everything in because I’m so scared of losing parts of myself, and that means that everything I give is out of my own personal reservoir – I can’t get excited by the excitement of others, I can’t learn from the learning of others, and I have no way of knowing, ever, whether anything I do is interesting or worthwhile to anyone but myself.
Over the last few months I’ve had several basil plants die on me because I was overwatering them, once a day, because that was simplest, that required me to pay the least attention, that was an obvious rule I could follow. I can’t help but feel like there was a lesson for me, there, and I can’t help but feel that everything I’ve done in the name of my own personal project, all the side-work I’ve avoided and all of the aspects of life I’ve avoided due to what I considered dedication have not actually been to the project’s best benefit.
What happens next is not easy or simple. What happens next is a world of possibilities, another reason I’ve been avoiding it. What happens next is I try to find a place to be, people to connect with, peers to teach and learn from. I don’t know where I’ll start and I don’t know how long it will take, but I know it will be its own process and, like any other skill I’ve taught myself, will be a long and painful road, one where I must find and face my own inadequacies over and over to proceed – but, in this case, my failures will be public, rather than private as I have always sought to make them.
This will not easy for me, possibly the hardest thing I’ve ever done. However, someday it will be the second hardest, then the third, until one day I forget it as I have forgotten my first steps, as I grow and learn. Or so I can hope.