“You can’t fake quality any more than you can fake a good meal.” -WSB
I set these very high standards for myself, and constantly struggle to meet my own expectations. In one way, that’s good, because it keeps me motivated and prevents me from getting lazy or complacent. In another way, it makes it really hard for me to ever sit back and go, “Hey, I did a thing. Good for me.”
So looking back on the last week or so …
I’m not as productive as I need to be. I’m sleeping more, but not well. Nightmares are frustratingly common, even if I don’t clearly remember them when I wake up. Lots of snakes and floods. I have developed this generalized anxiety that’s sort of like a background hum in my life, and it’s getting so persistent, just ignoring the hum is starting to become a full-time thing. It’s exhausting. I am watching a lot of movies and TV, but I’m staying up really, really late and I’m not sure that’s particularly good for me. I’m reading every day, but not a whole lot.
I feel like I’m doing a lot of stuff, but I’m not getting anything done.
But I did make this dumb thing in gimp today, that is a thing where there wasn’t a thing before:
I took the source picture at Hollywood Forever Cemetery when Anne and I went to see the premiere of Outcast (it’s great and you should watch it). I was goofing around in gimp and with some filters, and trial and error, ended up with that image. I think it’s neat, like something that would be on a record sleeve, or a 1960s movie poster. If any of you who are clever and creative want to make something with it, I’d love to see what it inspires you to create.
The Niven Jazz Collection at the Internet Archive is phenomenal, and it was my soundtrack while I worked on this thing.
Oh, I had this realization: I’m creatively starving. So I know what the source of my anxiety is, and I know why I feel unhappy and frustrated. Now I just have to figure out what the thing to do is. Part of that incessant background hum is knowing that I can do almost anything, if I just do the fucking work, so I don’t know where to start.
But I have an idea … of sorts. So that’s a start.
41 thoughts on “A ghost in daylight on a crowded street.”
I hear you, Wil. I work as a literary editor and publisher and face that sort of thing every single day. I know I’m productive, but it always feels like I could have done more or I could have done better or that what I did do was shite. I just keep plugging away, listening to all these people telling me the work I do is good, that it’s awesome, but I never really see it. I have to take them at their word.
It’s rare that I feel like I’ve done my est work, only because I set standards that are ridiculously high for myself because I know that the work I do is going to influence all of the people who pick up the book that I’m editing. In one respect, it’s good to have that sort of pressure, but in another it can be soul-crushing.
But, I just keep on keeping on and try to do the best I can at what I love.
And of course as soon as I hit enter I see there’s a spelling error…
Very nice image! I never had any luck with Gimp…
I too was looking for something creative to do with some hiatus time. I decided to create a video game for my niece and nephew. Its not anything to fancy or to hard as i am not a programmer by trade. But so far it has been fun, challenging, and educational. I have been using rpgmaker. It does about 75% of the hard work for you. The characters, story, and some of the artwork i have to do on my own… it might not be what you are looking for creatively at the moment. But i thought i would throw this out there and maybe it would inspire you or give you an idea.
Don’t forget- you don’t need a lot of time to fit creativity into your day.
I felt the most creative when I would spend my first ten minutes every morning just writing. You don’t think about what you want to say, just write as fast as you can. No correcting, editing, ‘thinking.’
I got some great story ideas out of it too.
And because it’s 1st thing, before you’re really awake, it’s a good way to circumvent the inner critic (but especially write fast!)
I’m a cubicle minion so I know all about feeling like I don’t have time to be creative. But make it a priority- first thing in the day.
Everything else will fall into place around it.
” Part of that incessant background hum is knowing that I can do almost anything, if I just do the fucking work, so I don’t know where to start.” An important thing is to just start. Start something. Anything. It doesn’t have to be the thing. And if it doesn’t work there is no pressure to keep going with it. But the momentum of doing something can help get you out of the rut of “I don’t know what to do so I’ll do nothing.”
Great jazz, Wil. The Niven tapes are terrific.
That image you produced makes me wish I were clever enough to create a graphic novel. It looks so alien and intriguing. Having issues of my own, I have discovered that I have to have multiple projects going, because completing a project (again for me) is almost like dealing with a little death. Well if that doesn’t cheer you up…. Anyway continue creating, it is empowering, involving and can touch others in a positive mentoring way.
Thank you for sharing the pervasiveness of mental illness has on your life. I suffer from Bi-polar
Ooh creatively starving. That’s an excellent description. A good friend of mine encouraged me to start an art journal, which is really a box that has stuff in it. She challenged me to set aside even 30 minutes at a time and do something with what’s in the box (or stuff I want to add to it!). It didn’t need to have a purpose. It didn’t need to look good. It didn’t need to ever be shared with any one ever. I was to do it for myself, to give myself that gift of time. That lack of feeling judged or pressured opened up many doors for me.
I love this idea! 😊
Thanks Shondelle. Her name is Monette Satterfield, and she has an interesting blog at ShinyDesigns [dot] com. I really appreciate her encouragement to embrace my artistic side, and not judge if it’s good enough or the right way. it’s right for me.
“I set these very high standards for myself, and constantly struggle to meet my own expectations.”
I am the same but lately I have been working on being more realistic about things. I apologise in advance if I have misunderstood what you mean by this but here is some of what I have started doing to help myself.
One thing I have started doing is writing a weekly to-do list rather than daily (I’m a bit of a list freek) then each day only move the top 3 things maximum to my daily list. It keeps me focused and I feel accomplished when I have done those 3 things and if I have more time I can always look at the weekly list for more motivation or direction.
I also try looking at my time realistically. Like I would love to blog more because I really enjoy it as a creative outlet but with everything else going on in my life to do so would mean spending less time with my husband and puppy. Even if all we are doing is sitting on the couch watching TV that time is valuable to me so I am happy to keep a sporadic blog schedule.
P.S. Love listening to the podcast 😊
About the nightmares. There are a few things to try:
See if you can become a Lucid Dreamer. Lucid Dreaming is gaining some degree of control over your dreams, to steer them away from the nightmare scenarios. For some this is DIY, but for most there are sleep specialists who can really help. For me, the key was NOT letting myself become fully awake when a bad dream woke me, but to try to stay semi-conscious and “talk back” to the dream (basically telling my brain it was being a very bad brain), then forcefully redirect it toward something more fun (such as a favorite Star Trek episode).
Monitor your sleep. The $14 i5 Plus at GearBest works great for me. Start a sleep journal. See if there are avoidable factors negatively impacting your sleep quality. For me, one negative factor was having any simple carbs within 3 hours of bed time. So no evening beer, no sweet dessert after dinner, and no late dinners or snacks (other than nuts). A positive factor for me was relaxing in bed prior to sleep, generally with 30 minutes of reading, typically a book (to provide fodder for Lucid Dreaming).
Ensure you get enough deep sleep. For many, this means taking a sleep aid. In my case, ALL the prescription meds I tried made the situation worse in one way or another, and I often woke feeling unrested and drugged. What’s worked great for me is a normal adult dose of good old diphenhydramine (Benadryl, 50mg). No negative side effects, and it also ensures allergies weren’t affecting my sleep. But I don’t take it every night, only on the night after a bad night.
I’m in total denial too, Wil.
I’ve chosen to ignore the events this weekend. Sorta just working on my network and praying for the families. All the best wishes to you and yours.
Wanna do something cool?
Its 15th anniversary of your blog next month 🙂 Any thought about that?
Wish I could tell you how to get your sleep back in line. It’s an affliction of the self-employed. Usually after 5 or 6 days of militantly avoiding anything with a glowing screen after dinner and turning in at midnight, I can turn it around. Sometimes if it’s really bad, I wind up working till the sun comes up and then tough it out and pull a scratchy-eyed 48 hour stint and turn it around. Not recommended, but sometimes it’s the only thing that works. When I get back to normal sleep hours, I’m happier, more creative, things get done in a flood, and most important… my wife doesn’t kick my ass in Trajan quite so bad 😉
Thanks for the link to the Niven Archive. I heard they were setting it up some time back and thought: “No way will the rights lawyers let it happen.” But hey… it happened… How cool is that. Thank you very much!
Here’s a jazz archive for you: The Gottlieb photo archive of the “Jazz Age”. The faces of people playing jazz can be so beautiful. My wife has painted a few as studies. A good photo of a jazz artist feels like a story frozen in time, and Gottlieb captured the moment like few others. You may find them inspirational.
Ah, sorry – it was the Steiner Archive that I was thinking about. That one never did make it online (or hasn’t yet) John Steiner used to haul a 1950’s portable (translation: absurdly huge) recorder to clubs in the 50’s and record jazz artists live. The good news is that his collection now lives in the Chicago Jazz Archives – which is good.
When he died, he left four moving vans of recordings and every profiteer and collector-hoarder in the world was straining at the leash to descend upon it. It isn’t online, but at least it is getting cared for and likely documented & archived at CJA. And… if you’re in Chicago you can make an appointment to use it under proper supervision. http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/e/su/cja/steinerupdate.html
Some of it has been released though – for instance, that big Duke Ellington live recording collection everyone raves about came from Steiner tapes, though I think he may have given the Ellington Trust those tapes before died.
Anyway – thanks for the Niven link. Righteous good stuff.
I know people have recommended Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” to you but I’m not going to do that. Instead I’m going to recommend her book “The Sound of Paper” (2004). Julia Cameron also struggled with her identity as an artist. Having been married to Martin Scorsese in the 70s and herself being successful in the Hollywood Babylon of the 70s and 80s she used that as a measurement of success. Over the years she moved many times between New York and Taos, NM. I think she struggled between feeling like a legitimate artist (New York) and a fulfilled artist (Taos). In “The Sound of Paper” she writes:
“Putting a pen to the page is the beginning of communication. We are writing a letter to our self…. Such communication is vital, and it is what we often neglect. Instead of putting our specific lives into black and white where we can see them and do something about them, we leave them vague, unspoken, and unwritten. “Something” is bothering us, but we don’t know what it is. We sweep our feeling under the carpet. We turn a deaf ear to our quiet desperation. We are not ready or willing attend to ourselves, and our souls know this. They are alert to the fact that they are ignored and unhusbanded. Is it any wonder that they are depressed?
And so, the first act of loving kindness is to start from scratch–the scratch of a pen to paper. The filling of blank pages with our specific likes and dislikes, our heartfelt and regretted losses and sacrifices–this is the beginning of being someone and somewhere again. When we ignore ourselves for too long, we become exhausted and weakened from trying to get our own attention. We become disheartened–without a heart. The gentle pulse that we are meant to attend to, the ear-cocked, mothering side ourselves that listens to a newborn and springs into action on its behalf, must be mustered now to our own rescue. But the rescue begins with the act of writing. Writing is how we “right” our world.”
Whenever I’m having difficulty with cerebral creativity I shift gears to something physically creative. Build a birdhouse. Fix the leaky faucet (yes, that can be creative). Tune up your bike. The idea is to get something in your hands that requires manipulation and involves a thought process. It’s incredibly rewarding when you’re finished and if things didn’t turn out as well as you hoped then you’ve learned something new for the next time.
An idea of how to scratch that creative itch and feed that imagination is an excellent place to start. Really love that photo!
The hum of anxiety … the underlying moroseness that is just there even as you pile on the coping mechanisms. I’ve given up calling it a mental illness because I don’t think it is, I think it’s a mental orientation that you get by genetic luck of the draw. And then in the nature v nurture debate, childhood either exacerbates it or not. (I’m also of the opinion that it can equally be called an artistic personality, especially when it has the companion characteristic of strong emotion / difficulty regulating emotions).
If you follow tennis, you may have heard that Andy Murray (the very definition of morose) has partnered again with Ivan Lendl (equally dour), the coach with whom he had great success a few years ago. Imho, only someone with that overly analytical self-punishing mindset can truly understand it. Which is why I believe that was a successful coaching partnership before.
I certainly enjoy my happy friends, and envy them. But when they attempt to turn that beam on me, it brings out my inner curmudgeon because they just don’t get it. There’s no trick of mind, medication, coping mechanism, alcohol, food etc. that alleviates it wholly and/or in perpetuity. It can only ebb and flow at will.
I ebb and flow. I rage. I fret. And sometimes between it all, I glow. Mmmm, the glow feels so good. It’s like creamy dense ice cream that somehow miraculously has no calories. But to my chagrin and dismay, I’m productive when ebbing, flowing, raging, and fretting.
I’ve no words of wisdom or hope about it. It just is. It’s just my reality, my fate.
Thanks for the 411 on the Niven collection. It brings me back to playing jazz in high school and is a happy listen at work.
This picture would be perfect art for an album cover. Now I want to go record an album so I can use it! (Note to self: find other people who can music.)
“I feel like I’m doing a lot of stuff, but I’m not getting anything done.”
Yep, I entirely sympathize with what you are feeling here.
Being a technology professional, there’s always a drive to get more tasks done in a day.
But, when I’ve done a ton of “stuff” and step back to see that I’ve actually accomplished very little of anything meaningful… that’s discouraging.
I haven’t solved this puzzle yet; if I ever do I’ll let you know 🙂
For now, just a sympathetic reader who enjoys your work.
This looks exactly like an album cover! Well done, Wil!
Remember Ficlets then Ficly? You may find Storium a fun way to scratch a similar writing itch through some game-style fun. I use it as a creative outlet when I need something that isn’t “work”.
*I am in no way affiliated with Storium
It’s always so weird to me that, through the last 5 years or so I’ve followed your blog (wow), that our highs and lows seem to sync up. I’d say it’s something in the water, but I live across the country lol. I’m looking to find that spot I fit into, and it looks like you’re going for the same. That comfortable place – not comfort zone, but place where we feel most at peace with ourselves and our world, yknow? You’ve pushed yourself hard. I guess I have too. And sometimes our stupid depressed brains are just like “I HAVE BEEN HOLDING US UP THIS LONG I CAN’T ANYMORE I’M DROPPIN YA!” and boom, downward spiral.
Creative starvation sucks. Not having any desire for expression or creation just destroys me. I’m pulled in like 15 different ways and I can’t stand it. I really hope both of us can find our ways to another ladder in this chutes and ladders game that is life. And I hate chutes and ladders cuz, like you, I suck at rolling dice lol.
Did you leave an offering of Spanish fly and Cointreau at the grave of Bob Guccione?
Aw… who am I kidding? The Gooch, like a modern Caligula, was buried with a tomb full of necessary supplies and his seven best unshaven centerfolds.
But your artwork there looks like it should be a cover for Omni. I may amuse myself this evening by Gimping that motherfudger up over Black Butte Porter and Cheetos (C- for my progress report).
Whoops. It’s GIMP.
The open source image program so suh-weet you have to yell it.
I’m sorry you’re feeling in the doldrums. Your previous post was so uplifting with your reboot check in. You can do it!
I’m reading Stephen King’s “On writing” as per your recommendation on RFB (I cannot, for the life of me, remember the episode number), and I just read the chapter where he talks about that.
My personal fear when I’m about to create something is that I will not be able to put what I have on my head (those beautiful amazing things that are so well conected and explained) into a piece of paper.
And I’m not refering to writting novels or short stories. I’m talking about making ilustrations as a graphic designer or a paper on Assyrian Military Intelligence as an Archaeologist or, as of right now, a marketing text for an advertisement campaign.
Every damn time, happens always, the fear strikes and I end up doing none of my (amazing, as I see them) projects. The only projects I seem to be able to do are those that someone asks me to do. And I just do them because I don’t like to let people down or say “mmmm, I don’t feel like doing it”. And at the end, I never like the final form of the project, mainly because my self-confidence is in negative numbers.
So Wil, I’m no one to tell you “don’t worry, it will all be ok”. But I’m the one that can tell you “I feel your pain, hang in there”. And, as always, I can say “thanks for the inspiration”.
Yeah! That feeling totally sucks. There are times when i’m so low that i waste the hours just doing nothing and repenting from within all that time.
What I do is open up a few old pictures of my travels and see how productive I can get. There is still so much left to do and see and taste and breathe.
I’m just going to echo what BobC posted earlier. Google “lucid dreaming” & also read the Wikipedia page (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucid_dream) & the wikiHow page (http://www.wikihow.com/Lucid-Dream). I have used some of the techniques mentioned to kill night monsters. Hope it helps!
Saw this on creativity and thought of you. It’s silly, but… funny.
It is a challenge; staying creative. For most of this past year I’ve been studying a completely different style due to being loaned a seminal piece to study and winding up fascinated with it. I may even wind up making a few iterations of it. I suspect the biggest benefit will be that it required me to approach something in the same creative arena, but radically different in so many ways (indeed the physics of it are different, being almost entirely planar and not planar/pistonic) But as a result, I’ve improved. When you remove a variable, you increase your understanding of what remains, and an understanding of the role of what was removed.
I suspect that in the same way, being a narrator makes you a better writer because it is in essence a focused study of the rhythm of language over time, and acting is a focused study on the intersection of a character and plot.
Just rambling. Anyway – here is some relevant silliness for you:
It is hard to draw the line between further work on a piece and submitting it. Tinkering could be endless. I think it rocks.
I wanted to share that I am listening to the collection you linked above, when my eleven year old son pokes his head in the door to tell me something, and blurts out, “hey, jazz”. So I tell him who the artists are. He recognized the music as jazz at eleven, which is younger than I could have done it. And it’s all your fault that I had this awesome moment of realization. Thank you.
What brought me back to creativity was My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and the fanfiction scene that popped up around it. It’s a powerful show with an ensemble cast and great production values.
The brother of the main character is a prince, but he’s also a geek who plays a paladin in an RPG. His RPG buddies from high school are seen in a tie-in comic. I imagine one of them with your voice.
can I send you a picture
Comments are closed.