16
Oct
18

Breaking Dreams

Something I – and many other artists, I imagine – struggle with is the feeling of worthiness. That my ideas matter, or might be of interest or value to someone else. I can’t speak for everyone of an artistic bent, but that feeling is compounded for me by numerous mental issues.

I do tend to believe that artistic folks tend to have a greater incidence of mental illness, but that’s probably a topic for another day.

But those issues pile up, combine with self-esteem problems, and the constant wondering if the work is good enough and the desire for input so you don’t feel like you’re creating in an echo chamber.

That’s when I get the most discouraged. I’m sure I’m not alone, here. You have what sounds like a really cool idea. You need a little input, or an opinion, or maybe just a sounding board to talk it out with so you can clarify it in your own head. You go to a loved one, a friend, a message board or whatever, and before you’ve even finished articulating whatever it was, someone whips out a hammer and crushes it.

Now, those people may not have known what they did. They may not have done it maliciously, or even meant to be harsh at all. But in my own depressed, fragile, constantly doubting mind that quick dismissal is like a knife shoved between my ribs. It kills discussion regarding that idea, and frequently reverberates through later ideas, shattering them before they even have a chance or form or subjecting them to “well, the last one didn’t fly so why bother with this one?”

For those like myself, those rejections and dismissals become grains of sand around which black pearls form, tended and brooded over for years after the fact, often receiving far more attention than the idea that led to them until they are so large there is no room for any actual creativity. It’s not healthy, but it’s true. Again, I’m pretty sure I can’t be alone in this line of thinking.

Two that I remember: While mulling over Ioudas and where it needed to go, having started with the premise that the concept of “sin” was a type of “energy.” Attempting to determine where that energy would need to go, and how one would ultimately get rid of it, I commented “So Jonas would have to fight literal, physical manifestations of the Seven Deadlies.” I got that far before I was cut off. I had more; images of what those sins would mean to Jonas, how those manifestations would be dealt with, almost a whole story complete and ready to go. Before I could do so, however, the person who I was speaking with said “Oh, the Seven Deadlies. Really fucking original.”

Ioudas has been sitting at 25% complete since then; about three years. Every time I open the manuscript and think about working on it, I hear that voice again and slam the iPad shut, snarling.

The other was in reference to “Little Miss No Name.” Now, she’s fared better than Ioudas, with actual progress occasionally being made, but she hasn’t had the exposure she deserves because of it, and the greater world hiding behind her remains a few scraps of paper at the bottom of the desk because of it. Someone asked what I was working on and I said “It’s a story about a doll who…” Instant cut off.

“Sounds like crap. Like Annabelle. Who gives a shit?”

That person then went on to explain how a real good story would involve JFK time-traveling and killing dinosaurs, which really puts in the wheelhouse of “Consider the source,” but that’s never been my specialty. It left a scar, one that I still pick at and worry at, and rub salt into, far more than any of my physical self-mutilation injuries.

One can always go back to “grow thicker skin” commentary. Certainly an option. But that’s not something that magically happens, or makes every previous wound just vanish.

So if any of you out there are close to an author, a painter, a designer, a creative of any stripe, and they start sharing an idea… please, for just a second, pause and consider your response. I’m not saying you can’t be negative… maybe even mean. There are times when we need those things. But there’s a difference between negativity to a bad or malformed idea and offhand dismissal without even knowing the nature of the idea, and the latter is what rankles me and leaves me awake at night, brooding over the grim treasures spawned from such dismissals.

If you have a creative in your life, let them finish their thought. Ask a question or two, if only to give the impression that you were actually listening. Don’t just break out a verbal hammer and crush it straightaway or – worse – throw up a wall and walk away without a thought.

Please.

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