A Debt to the World

Does it count as creative writing when I channel my innermost thoughts onto the screen?

Unsurprisingly, my promise to have something creative for you this week has not panned out. But I’m loath to break the blogging habit on top of it, so I’m going to try to sort out the reasons why.

I had a dream at the beginning this month in which a vivid story arose in my head, almost fully formed and just waiting to be put into words. But when it came time to do that, I didn’t. I could make excuses—poor health, other demands on my time—but they would be just that, excuses. I had plenty of opportunity to take a few hours and hammer out a story, had I wanted to. I’m reluctant even to call myself simply lazy for not doing so, because laziness is also an excuse—a word one can use to avoid self-examination and confronting inconvenient truths about oneself.

The truth is, I lacked confidence that the idea would make a good story. (Rightly so; it would have been a mildly dystopian sci-fi vignette without any particular novelty, made or broken as a story entirely by skillfulness of the execution. Which added to the apprehension of actually executing it.) And just as importantly, I lacked confidence that anyone would actually want to read it.

A number of artists I respect talk about how art, for them, is a personal impulse—how they create things entirely heedless of what other people will think of them. For these people, sometimes the process bears a closer resemblance to expelling something from one’s system than pouring one’s soul into a work of art in the hopes others will admire it. I’ve never felt this way. I’ve always been acutely conscious of my audience and how my work will reflect on me, as I went over in my last personal blog post. I want to create things with the belief that people I personally know will enjoy them—and as I don’t personally know many people at all, and those whom I do predominantly enjoy forms of art far beyond my individual ability to craft, I do not accomplish very much creatively.

I sometimes wonder if this makes me not truly an artist—whether I’d be driven to produce things merely for my own satisfaction if I genuinely had a creative mind.

When it comes down to it, I want to make things because I feel like I owe something to the world. For partaking of entertainment without ever giving back, perhaps—I’ll resist the temptation to get more melancholy than that, though I’ve been in a pretty low mood as of late. The problem is, I don’t know what the world wants. (The answer: Flappy Bird clones.) So let me qualify that: I don’t know what the world wants that is both within my means to create and can capture my imagination enough for me to be passionate about it.

I guess I’ll sleep on that. And if I don’t come up with an answer, perhaps there’s nothing wrong with just leaving the debt outstanding.

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