Why bother?

9
Jul
2012

Out of the blue this morning I received the following text message from a friend of mine:

It’s tough when you’re a writer and you write but no one (really) reads what you write.  It’s depressing.

I was a little taken aback, since this was not the continuation of some conversation we had been having (at least not recently, anyway). So I figured either the text was meant for someone else and mistakenly sent to me, or some event had happened that had precipitated this gloomy thought. I asked my friend exactly that, and he replied:

I have ideas all the time for stories and essays but I don’t write them because no one will read them.

And I thought to myself: Oh, Mary. Give me a break. What a total cop out. I don’t write for the fawning accolades of critics or the adulation of fans. Those things are completely separate from the process of writing. I write to explore ideas of all types, be they epic, philosophical, political, culinary, global, funny, dreamy, and yes sometimes boring, mundane and trivial. I write because I want to write. And I don’t write when I don’t want to write. It is not my job, it is my art. It is beyond the reach of commerce, and in that sense all the more pure for it. While I love readership and feedback, especially if there is a back and forth about ideas and opinions, they are not the primary reason I write. And I think the same must be true for any creative endeavor we engage in. We have to do it because we are compelled in some way to do it. It is the creative activity itself that is worthwhile. It is the doing, not the response to the doing. That is a separate thing entirely, and although it can be gratifying or frustrating it should never be the motivating force.

I kind of feel like my friend (and many others I have heard similar sentiments from) are experiencing a tension between what they feel they SHOULD want, and what they actually want. And then the excuse for not engaging in some activity (such as writing) becomes about the fear of “failure” (whatever that means) or the lack of response. I want to say “Hey, it is ok not to write, or paint, or whatever.” Just as it is ok to do those things if you feel compelled to. The subjectivity and capriciousness of what achieves mass appeal is beyond art and only feeds the ego. People who are only trying to figure out what this mass appeal is and cater to it are making a specific product for a specific need, not making art. Some people are lucky enough I suppose to have their aesthetic interests and sensibility line up with the masses, resulting in the win-win for them of doing creative work that happens to be popular. But so what? Art and taste are subjective. If you need to create, create. What comes of it is irrelevant to that endeavor. The creative act is truly its own reward.

Safety not Guaranteed

4
Jul
2012

A few days ago, I went with my friend Aneesh to see an independent film called “Safety not Guaranteed“. The premise of the movie is about a reporter and two interns who go investigating the person behind the following classified ad:

Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. I have only done this once before. Safety not guaranteed.

(Apparently the movie ad was close to a real one published in 1997 in Backwoods Home magazine, which was the inspiration for the film.) The movie is wonderfully quirky (in the best sense of the word) and full of strong, believable performances. I won’t spoil it for you, but something happens at the end which takes the movie from a bittersweet grounding in reality to somewhere else, and I struggled for a bit to accept this jump, but finally have decided that I love it. Ultimately this film is a meditation on the messy uncertainty of love and relationships, and the need to believe and be believed in as conditions for that love. I highly recommend this film, it was a total treat.

Pasadena

2
Jul
2012

I had a strange dream last night where I was planning some big espionage mission with a partner, we were meeting in Malaysia at the top of a very tall building from which we could see another city in the distance. It took forever to get to the top of this building, and there were many people with me climbing up lots of stairs and taking several elevators. We were discussing the plans, I think it was something highly illegal, and my partner had the much more dangerous task to accomplish, while I had to catch a flight to some other place to do my part. I realized I was running late and started saying my goodbyes to the people assembled on the roof, and it was awkward because some of them I knew better than others, and they were from a variety of cultures, so I wasn’t sure at each person whether to shake hands, or hug or kiss or simply nod and wave. This seemed to take forever, but I finally finished and headed off to catch my flight. The airport I was running through was vast and a strange open air plan with just a kind of roof shed over the whole thing, but no walls. As I was running across the grand space, I could not find any info about my flight, and the ticket I had in my hand had the info hand-scrawled on it, very hard to read. I finally found a panel that showed my flight number, leaving at 3:05pm. I looked at my watch and realized it was exactly 3:05, I was late and started running in the direction of the flight, asking people where to go. I could not find my airline, which from the messy handwriting on the ticket I thought was called “Mercury”, but in fact a young woman working there told me, it was “Pasadena”.  I ran towards the flight which was probably taking off without me in that very moment, and then I woke up.