facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinby feather

Mackenzie Patel

“After a while, I peek my head out and wonder:


Where am I?

Where did I come from?

Where am I going?”

— Christoph Niemann

I don’t have these existentialist musings on the hour, but the question of “Where am I going” pops up at least once week. In creative terms, this issue of style development and progression plagues every content creator. For a writer, every word is handplucked; for a videographer, every second is curated. When I’m in the robotic phase of writing—where the words fly out like grass clippings—I don’t dwell on the roadmap under the characters. Because there isn’t one. The story writes itself, and I’m convinced my 9 to 5 self has nothing to do with it. Some Picasso hamster is running the wheel in my brain, spitting out semi-pleasing sentences and paragraphs.

However, this {mostly-internalized} pressure to string together the optimal sentence, the most coherent idea is stressful 99% of the time. Where these late-night Microsoft rendezvous’ come from—I have no clue. Such a premium is placed on “creativity:” the Big C: the belief that originality is coaxed from nothing into a colorful something. That is bullshit. Ingenuity isn’t Giotto sketching sheep in the Italian countryside and being discovered as a prodigy by Cimabue. It’s the person that spends hours perfecting an article even though the first draft is fine. It’s working at insane hours to extract a drop of talent from your mostly dull creations. Being creative is harder than any of my accounting classes…the fear of failure/loss of talent, the reception of my work by others, and the future question of ‘pragmatism or passion?’ never disappear.

Beauty is like accumulated depreciation; it’s an asset in your 20s prime, but it cracks once children, a husband, and a career depreciate it. I fear my writing aptitude will act the same way. In the salad bowl of snogging, liberalism, and hourly drama, my fingers can’t type my experiences fast enough. It’s easy. It’s mindless. The topics land in my lap without my having to fetch them. But when I’m 30? My ideas might be as dry as a drunken throat—what if my current talent is linked to the content I work with? Creativity is structured so an artist’s vision at 25 looks wildly different from the 50-year-old outcome. This idea implies a progression in skill or understanding of the chosen field, for stagnant work is irrelevant. I don’t think an apex in creativity exists—lulls and dulls are normal, but the overall trend becomes more sophisticated as the creator ages. My fear is, what if I’m caught in a perpetual low after college ends? My main stimulus—the shenanigans of my peers—is missing, and I’m scared as to what will replace it. Universities make insane, daring, and accepting citizens out of high school loafs. Suburban neighborhoods don’t have that power.

My second relating fear is the one of failing, both literarily and in the publishing realm. Literary flops (content wise) are a sad norm in this caffeinated profession. Style is never flawless, no matter how many hundreds of thousands of words a writer crunches. Fingertips hover—deadlines breathe—and the ensuing article is bloated with clichés, heavy-handed adjectives, and unnecessary adverbs. Look at these atrocious sentences I wrote:

  1. “It fused together pure nature with the encroachment of humans in a fantastical setting.” (The View From Parc Güell)
  2. “His [Anatole’s] intense gaze and lusty vibe rips Natasha apart with longing and she nearly escapes wildly in the night with her lover despite her prior engagement and precarious social standing.” (Why War and Peace Is Actually A Thrilling Novel)

Disgusting. [I hope my writing career isn’t banking on success through those articles.] Publishing shitty work sucks, both for the author and the audience that reads it.  Failing in publishing, the recognition that legitimizes creativity, is a blow to any ego. My CreateSpace book was published and ignored (despite this *top-quality* promo video). Discussions and edits with a VICE editor were banished to the second page of Gmail. I realized my newest novel is unpublishable and unfit for this John Green-obsessed market. I’m still waiting for this glamorous break, but what if it never comes? Writing for myself is my primary aim, but those priorities change once “real life” erases this college looking glass.

Factoring the opinions of others into creativity is a dangerous trap. My Facebook audience of 25 friends has multiplied to 460 people that have access to my prior works. Everything—every huffy opinion or artistic musing—is available to my farthest acquaintances. This catch-all platform excites me, but it also bars certain thoughts from migrating to paper. They say “speak your mind,” but that simply is not true. Social media creates a filter on creativity; anyone that stains it is subject to criticism from the world. It’s this constant tug-of-war: I don’t want to intentionally offend people, but I’m compelled to author truth. What am I supposed to do? Cook the oatmeal or those peanut butter-stuffed Cheez-its everyone shits on? Being combative isn’t in my social nature, but articulating gripes and opinions through words is so much easier. How others judge my work—offensive content or not—is a subset of this “people” anxiety.  No one liked this article on Facebook? My idea was stupid in the first place. My mom thinks this post is too sexual? Fine, I’ll cut out “tonguing” and “lick” and kill the zing. Maybe it’s this social media world, but the concerns of other people have crept into (and sometimes dominated) the content I produce. And that frightens me.

Finally, I have this dire, apocalyptic complex relating to my future writing career.  I’m an accounting student, so the natural trajectory is Big Four at 23, burnout at 30, and death at 75. The subject is bearable—and lucrative—so I’d never have to write again. That masterpiece, about politics or gender or traveling, never has to be written to pay my food and electricity bills. The intersection of accounting and creative writing is nonexistent. In a few years, I must choose between the creative “poor” and a basement auditing job of $60,000 a year. So what do I pick? The pragmatism of adulthood or a livelihood of diction?  Also, my literary career in college is noncommittal and simple—but what if it did become my full-time job? I fear the magic of this wordy romance will fade. The deadlines would degrade my creations to dull printouts typed for the word count.  Every word with a price tag; the stress of my next freelance gig always present. At least with accounting, I’m prepared for the strained-eye tedium: nothing is fooling me.

Imagination is a bitch. Creativity is a cunt that either blesses the artist with success or a life of “what ifs?”. Rethinking the world in my own terms—through my own definitions—is so much harder than just accepting the predetermined plot. It’s the exposure of failure, the criticism of others, and most importantly: the criticisms from myself. Thinking about this future of freelancing and novels might be pointless, but so is writing articles on peanut butter, Biggie Smalls, and sexy breakfasts until midnight.


I would be blank without it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.