Thursday, February 28, 2013

Not for the pats-on-the-back (or, "My wife told me to do what?")

Recently, filmmaker Richard Griffin (Beyond the Dunwich Horror, Nun of That, The Disco Exorcist, and the upcoming Dr. Frankenstein's Wax Museum of the Hungry Dead) posted on his Facebook wall what he observed to be the difference between fame and success. On the surface, I know the difference. My late grandfather would joke about how I could be famous as a writer if I just wrote some sort of tell-all book about a politician (and included lots of details about their sex life), and I would laugh and joke that I wasn't looking for fame. I was only looking to be successful as a writer (of non-tell-all books).

But it's hard (for me) in the creative arts I currently pursue. As a writer, I know that I'll get closer to that success if I produce prose longer than 5,000 words, but the short stories? I can bang those out, edit them, and get them out there for people's Kindle in a short amount of time. Griffin said:
I think with the internet we're getting too accustomed to instant gratification when it comes to our art. We're all looking for the our cyber pat-on-the-back instead of just letting the work speak for ourselves and being satisfied with the results.

He's entirely right, at least as far as my own productivity has been lately. Write a short story, produce a podcast, put it out there, wait for the pats-on-the-back. And in some cases, I've become entirely too dependent on the pats-on-the-back.
I believe the key is just to be happy with your work. Do your best, and do it for yourself first, and if you think it's quality...chances are other people will as well. Don't sweat being famous, the odds are stacked against you anyways.
In my heart, I know I'm not pursuing my various creative endeavors because I want to be "famous." But sometimes there's a childish part of my brain that wants a little attention, and it gets a little unruly from time to time.

The instant gratification internet machine has made it difficult for me to keep perspective on the WHY of why I do the things I do. I produce two podcasts because I love podcasting. I write because I love writing. Sure, there's a mercenary element to it when I think about putting my writing out for sale since I do want the writing to become a significant part of my income. In the end, I need to do the work that I enjoy doing BECAUSE I enjoy doing it.

Earlier this week, I got hung up on foolishly feeling like I wasn't getting the deserved recognition for something I was doing. I had some other things going on in my head, and I allowed myself to get stuck so much that I had a mini-mental-meltdown over what will, ultimately, be a menial footnote in the final story of my creative endeavors. I'm not proud of how I acted/reacted, and I need to keep in mind that while it's nice to get those pats-on-the-back, that's not the point. It's about doing a good job on the things that I enjoy.
Doing this is actually harder than it sounds.
Yes it is, Mr. Griffin . . . yes it is. I'm trying to keep that in mind.

(I have some great friends that did more than their fair share by listening to me spiral into that weird depression that day. My wife read the email exchanges, and she said they "did everything right" in terms of how they handled their friend Derek getting lost in his own head. Granted, my wife also texted me to tell me I need to work on developing some "self soothing" skills. It would have been awkward if I tried self soothing myself at the time as I was at the waiting room at the doctor's office, though.)


Joe Barlow said...

This was a great post, Derek. (*pats you on the back*)

No, seriously. It's brave to admit publicly that you're struggling with issues, and that those issues involve both ego and a desire for creative gratification. I can relate. As you and I have discussed many times, a modicum of writing success (and the resulting recognition) is very important to both of us. We'll get there. And you're lucky to have a spouse who recognizes what you're going through, and can offer helpful, if amusingly phrased, suggestions. :)


Derek M. Koch said...

I'm definitely lucky in that I've got a great support system in place, and doubly lucky that those people in that support system actually stick around despite the abuse I subject them to at times!