It’s 10:44pm Monday night as I type. I’ve been in a weird mood all night. I watched a documentary on sensory deprivation which both fascinated and horrified me. I listened to a podcast (a sermon really) titled “Contemplation and Action.” I sat here playing refrains from songs I had written.
The documentary sort of took Julia Cameron’s idea of the empty well and took it to it’s most disturbing extreme. The podcast made me realise the folly of seeking perfection – spiritual, artistic, personal, otherwise. And the music made me realise I was still sad, still nursing old wounds. And then it all starts feeding back into each of these things. I realise I was reluctant to be sad because I didn’t want to be affected, I wanted to be perfect, I wanted to be untouchable. I wanted to be completely impervious to the criticism and rejection of others. But I’m not. Infact I suspect I might be more sensitive to its effects than most. I feel bad about this and beat myself up even more.
Then I check my email. There’s a message via YouTube. Someone has commented on a video I made some time ago in which I combined chocolate, biscuit and mini marshmallows. I’ve done all kinds of weird and wonderful things on YouTube but I’ll level with you – I had no concept of how deeply controversial my combining of chocolate, biscuit and mini marshmallows was. In my defense I am very open and matter-of-fact about the whole thing. I explain that I just woke up and that I had never combined those ingredients before. But at any rate this video irritates people. They call me names, they tell me an idiot (or worse). Mostly they just tell me that I’m (shudder!) doing it wrong.
This amuses me because, honestly, at the time I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t really care to be honest. I wanted to combine chocolate, biscuit and mini marshmallows and make a video while doing that. So I did. To the extent that I achieved everything I wanted to achieve makes me think this was a raging success. But no apparently I did it wrong! So these complete strangers who happened across my video for no better reason than it is monetized and appears higher in search results for s’mores or chocolate (or something) want to retroactively shame me for doing something I wanted to do… Never mind the fact that I’m being criticised for something as trivial as preparing a snack that was to be consumed by no one but myself.
The good news is that if someone tells you you’re doing it ‘wrong’ it means simply this: you’re doing it. You’re doing that thing you want to do, you’re creating that thing that you want to see exist in this world. That it even exists is a testament to your effort and your vision, to your constant battle to tell an inner critic (and a few outer ones too) to shut the hell up. Because at the end of the day you can look yourself in the eye (with the help of a mirror) and say, “I wrote this song and you know what – no one can take that away from me.”
A former lover made me doubt my self-worth. A sibling informed me that the only way to ‘make it’ in art was to die. I parted ways with an online community I was really hoping to become a valued member of. Random people have left less-than-inspirational feedback on my work. I’ve been depressed. I’ve been unnecessarily self-critical. But somehow I came through all this and I never gave up, I kept on creating, I kept on writing and drawing and composing. Through creating I was able to make sense of the highs and lows of my existence and realign with my own values and aspirations. Through creating I am delivered back to my own hand and not influenced by malevolent bystanders. The danger isn’t ‘doing it wrong’, so much as yielding to criticism and giving up and not doing it at all. So if you’re doing it, congratulations. I hope you keep doing it. I hope you can continue to create and share and that through doing so you become a more fully realised version of yourself.