After finishing everything I write I automatically have some inner voice demanding that I know how many people have read what I just wrote. I don’t think I can ever be happy after finishing something without getting instant recognition, which rarely happens, and I spend at least the next thirty minutes after posting or writing something hopping that someone will respond, which rarely happens. But I keep writing.
Writing is something that I can’t stop doing. I went off the boil for a while about six months ago, mostly because I had little else really to live for except finding a new job in Korea so that we could move back to Korea and quit making the baby steps towards our much discussed future together. Since some sense of normality or acceptability has returned to my life my writing has become considerably more fluid and prolific. With the exception of a few poems I have been written (which won’t be posted on the internet) and a few pieces that have appeared in magazines and newspapers and a couple of other things in the pipeline, most of what has been written has been posted here.
I started using WordPress on May 14 2010 (I had used Blogspot earlier), and since then I have made around twenty posts and written over 15,000 words, that’s almost as many words as I wrote for my MA dissertation; I’ll let you worry about which of the two was easier. It’s now the end of July, and I don’t think I’ve ever written as much. A sign for the future I hope. But still, there are days when I look at the stats page for this website literally counting the one and two extra clicks more today than yesterday and thinking, ‘Yes, I am being read, I am out there…”, but really does it matter if I don’t know what these readers think?’ Still nothing comes of it, and I have to ask myself is it really important what other people think?
I had a conversation with my friend Chris last weekend where we were talking about making or producing creative works, or art, or whatever it is you want to call it. Chris said to me that he didn’t care what criticism he got as it didn’t matter because he was still going to do what he was doing. As far as I could gather, much of this sentiment came from a relatively recent trip back to the UK where he met a friend and they started talking about his films. His friend couldn’t understand the meaning behind one particular film, Blocks, and said that it should have subtitles to explain the meaning to people. Chris found this suggestion to be somewhat of an insult and so he launched into his tirade about critics. Maybe he has thicker skin that I do, but I just couldn’t cope without knowing that someone had read and opined over my writing, even taking into consideration how much criticism can kill my spirit, sometimes it even sends me into a black hole where I don’t write for ages. But criticism has been the basis for everything I’ve ever done, and without it I don’t think I’d be the writer I am today.
A few years ago I started a writers group so that I could benefit from the experience of others and hopefully others could benefit from others, and if possible me. Before that, when I really started writing, it was only with the help of two really good friends, Jeremy Toombs and Keith Francese, that I ever started writing in the first place. It was these people who inspired me to pick up the pen and then later to keep the pen firmly in hand. Criticism has always been positive for me, always been a guiding light for what I do, always shown the way to where and how I should approach my next project (incidentally, I’ve never received any criticism on this here blog).
But perhaps this is where I’m reading Chris wrong. What we do artistically are two different things. Sure we will, hopefully, always get better and learn from our mistakes. Writing though is always error prone, art, and in this case ‘video art’, is developed step by step; if something can’t be perfected for whatever reason the lesson is learned and taken onto the next project. As a writer, especially with a computer, it’s easier to scrap these mistakes and start afresh or easier to just delete or change a word. Of course the problem here is, and I’ve been noticing this more and more these days, is that I lose my train of thought and forget what little changes I made throughout the poem or piece I’ve been writing. I still have copies of first drafts of some of my earliest poems. The majority, I’ll be honest, are pretty awful, pretty generic and also importantly, not really making a point (and some people will inform you that this is how I talk all the time anyway so what’s the difference?). But I still have them, and in between all the poems that I embarrassedly shake my head to, there are a few beauties, really fantastic initial works and with a bit of effort and consideration I could really drag something out worth keeping.
There’s a quote which I came across before and was reminded of it from another website while writing this post. It came from Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert cartoon series; “Creativity is allowing oneself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” If I take Chris’s argument and my argument and use this as a benchmark from which to approach both, I reckon, we’re both right, and then we’re both wrong, very wrong.
Creativity needs guidance; it needs help to come out, otherwise how are we to know whether or not we are really saying what we want to say? But also, it is only the creator who really knows whether something has been created, something is finished. The message we are trying to transmit remains our own prerogative and it can only be passed on in our own particular way, that’s why it is deemed creative, and not reiterative. How we respond to our peers, friends and spectators is a matter for each us individually. Apathy? sure. Obsession? Without a doubt. Progress? Only if you have the guts to take yourself above that level which you previously set and which others expect of you.
By the way, I’ll be back online in about five minutes to check how many people have had a read of this, it keeps my ego afloat.