How to Not Create

Get very frustrated you can’t think of anything interesting to write about. Discard several ideas as not interesting enough to write about. Wait, is that one interesting? Ah, you’ve probably written about it before. It sounds familiar, you’ve definitely thought about it before, so you’ve probably written about it before. Or, worse, someone else wrote about it before, and you read it, and you’d be accidentally plagiarizing. Better think of something else.

Consider working on another project instead. Remember that the next task in the game project is a huge detailed illustration that’s overwhelming to think about and which you’re not sure how to finish but which the game won’t be complete without. You could work on another part I suppose, but by the time you get back to the illustration it will be even harder to work on, and you might have to start part of it over again, and that’s too much to bear. Open it up, look at it. That’s so many lines! Why does it have so many lines? You have to add more lines to this?

You could think about how messed up it is that our self-worth is equated with our productivity, and bemoan the extent to which you’ve internalized this value system, that you can only feel good as long as you’re creating, are being productive. As an artist, though, your productivity is also your channel of communication, so what does it mean if you can’t create? Does it mean you have nothing to say, or is it that you don’t want to speak aloud the words that come most readily? How can you separate the productivity which is routinely exploited from artists from the productivity that gushes forth freely from a mind eager to tell stories? This overwhelming frustration must mean the words are ready to burst forth the moment fingers touch keys!

… Or not. Shit.

You could do something else. You could try to make something completely unrelated, a different piece of art or music. That kind of sounds recreational though. That sounds like something you do instead of doing work. It should probably wait for the weekend. So, as an alternative, maybe you can just do something that resembles work even less, like sitting around watching Youtube or reading news filtered through Twitter and stewing in anxiety at the knitting of apocalyptic threads into a disaster sweater.

Done. You feel better now (you don’t). Weekend’s coming up fast, the time when you’ll finally be able to relax and use that relaxation time to catch up on all the things you should have been doing this week, when you were relaxing instead of doing what you needed to get done. You need to have something written for the weekend, though – writing is one of the few endeavors in you life which people actually currently pay you to endeav, so you endeavor to endeav promptly. But you can’t think of anything to write about, which is very frustrating.

This is the advantage of writing on the artistic process, though. When all else fails, you can write about the failure of the artistic process. It feels like cheating. It feels like, when you’ve run out of wine to serve, just popping open a vein and serving buckets of blood. It might be straight from the heart but that doesn’t help the taste. It feels like there’s no process, no idea, no refinement. You’re not sure whether people actually carry away any new ideas from posts like this or just walk away feeling a sense of catharsis which serves only to reinforce myths of the nobility of artistic suffering.

But we’re riding the rocket now and our capacity for steering is limited. After a certain point you have to take it on faith that your impact will be better than worse. Creation requires thoughtfulness and insight, but you cannot allow the fear of negative impact to stymie the flow, only to modulate it. It’s good to write. It’s good to create. Maybe it’s even good that it’s so hard, sometimes – because only that struggle lets you see the many ways that everything that you’ve done you almost didn’t, every effect it’s had almost wasn’t. Only witnessing the carnage garbage strewn to the sides of the path you walk gives you a chance to find a route towards creating something that does more good than harm.

Eventually we must abandon whatever we make. Is it good? Will it help? If you look too hard for those answers you’ll never finish anything. Just keep putting one word in front of another, until hopefully, eventually, they lead somewhere that makes sense.

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