.journal 2000.12.17
My insomnia is your gain.

Now listening to: Portishead, PNYC
Now reading: Poppy Z. Brite, Wormwood
Now playing: Final Fantasy VII (Playstation)

Well, I was trying to sleep just now, but my mind is once again going a hundred miles an hour on me and that's kind of making it difficult. But hey, what better time than three in the morning for a journal entry? Granted, it's kind of hard to type by just the light of the monitor (I'm only a half-assed touch typist), and it took me about five tries to finally remember my password, but I'm here now so maybe I can start getting this stuff out onto this page where it will hopefully stay and not come back with me into bed. Or something.

What has me so troubled right now is my concept of art, and what it means to me in everything I do. In case you haven't figured out yet, I like to do a lot of ruminating about these sorts of things. I'm just glad I finally have a forum like this where I can talk about these things with the rest of you.

These past few months of my life, where I've undergone this creative recovery, have been weirder than I could ever have expected. Now, I do mean weird in the most wonderful sense of the word, but as I've mentioned before, I've kind of been conditioned for most of my life to think that I don't deserve happiness, that my own wishes should never be paramount to what others want from me. So when something good happens to me, I almost want to reject it because it seems so unnatural. And now that so many good things are happening in my life, it's overwhelming me. It's like I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop, for something to happen to turn everything on its ear and cause me to revert to my former, unsatisfied self. It's probably my pessimistic streak in work again, since I haven't quite beaten that monster into submission.

Actually, that has precious little to do with what I wanted to talk about, and I'm not even sure why I brought it up. Sleep deprivation, probably. If this is a taste of what it's like to be drunk, it's no wonder I don't touch alcohol.

What I wanted to discuss was what it means for me to be an artist, and how that translates into everything I do. Now, it's not like every action I take is a conscious artistic decision on my part. The reason I had such a hard time making a pizza for lunch yesterday was because I used too much water in the pizza dough and it got sticky on me, but I didn't view the process of making the pizza as art. Obviously there are many chefs who would disagree with me (including everyone I see on Iron Chef), but to me making my meals isn't really an art, it's just something I do.

Consequently, there are many people who do the activities which I consider my art -- writing songs, poetry and fiction -- and they don't consider what they do to be artistic. I'm not really referring to the people who just do a bit of writing on the side of their life, I'm talking about professional songwriters, poets and fiction writers, who simply churn out work after work without much concern for what they do. And, I mean, obviously I believe in people living their lives on their own terms, and I don't want to appear like I'm eager to be knocking on people's doors and scream at them about how important it is they view what they're doing as art. But sometimes can be a bit bothersome to me.

It's most bothersome when it's someone whose work I greatly admire. I experience the work and I go, "Hey, this is really great, you're a great artist," and what I get back from the creator of the work is, "No, it's nothing really, it's just something I do, I don't really think much about it." And it isn't just the old modesty game I'm hearing from the creator, it is a real apathy for what they are doing. Believe me, I should know. But that just doesn't seem right to me, especially when it's coming from someone who so clearly has a natural gift for what they do.

I'm very passionate about my work, both artistic and otherwise, and I really think you have to be passionate about what you do in order to really enjoy life. For a few years there I became dispassionate, and during that time I fought through some of the deepest depression I've ever experienced. The situation which I left recently that I keep talking about, basically boiled down to the fact that it was something I found I couldn't be passionate about, that I really wasn't allowed to bring passion into what I did, and I couldn't change the situation so I could be passionate about it. And so I left, so I could spend more time and energy on the things I could be passionate about, the things I want, no, the things I need to do.

I know music is what I was born to do; I believe it is my destiny to be a great songwriter. But I also have other artistic pursuits, and whenever something strikes my fancy I try to pursue it as best I can. That's kind of what's led me to all my recent fiction writing, because I got inspired by all the Poppy Z. Brite I was reading. The whole photography section is another offshoot of a recent pursuit. Going back to the pizza analogy earlier, several years ago I was interested in cooking as art, but I found that in practice it wasn't something that particularly interested me, and in order to really pursue it to the level I was comfortable with would require too much of my time. I've been dabbling on and off in manga/anime drawing for the past couple of years, but it's not something I've been able to get to in the past few months.

But whatever it is I do, I always try to do my best at it. Unfortunately I do have a bit of a perfectionist streak, which in an artist can be brutal because it results in working and reworking things into oblivion before you're happy enough to release them. But I think that's still a far cry better from the polar opposite on the spectrum, which is just throwing things out there without caring if they're good or not or whether they're really coming from your heart, your creative spirit.

And just as there are people who can work and work at a piece of art with all their passion and not really have it be that good, there are people who produce brilliant works but who never really think that much about what they do, let alone be passionate about it. I don't want to say it diminishes the artistic value of their work, or that I view them as any less people for doing so, but ... it kind of sticks there in my head, you know, it's a bitter aftertaste after the initial joy of tasting their work. I have to wonder, "If this person is so great at their work without being passionate about it, how much better could it be if it were to truly come from their creative soul?"

Like I said before, though, I'm not one to go door-to-door and try to shake these people up, to convince them of what I perceive to be the errors of their ways. I guess really the best thing I can do is to follow my own advice, to do everything I do with a passion and a care, and while sometimes that isn't the easiest thing for me, at least I can go to bed every night and say I tried to be passionate about things. And, well, I admit this site is something of a soapbox for me, where I can stand up and speak to the rest of you, so I guess I should try to encourage you all to follow your passions, to do what you want to do, to do what makes you happy. It took me twenty-four years to finally get that through my skull, and while living life in hindsight is never all that healthy, I do wish I could have a good chunk of those years back.

I don't know if typing this all out has made me feel any better about my ruminations, but it has at least made me a bit sleepier. I didn't get all too good a sleep last night, so I've kind of been a bit mentally impaired throughout the day to start with. I did work a bit on my second short story today, at least, but no matter what I seemed to do today I wasn't really functioning all that well. And I still don't feel all that well. Maybe I'm going to wake up tomorrow and find that I really didn't want to type all this down, I don't know. But I do know it's time for me to try to get some sleep again. So be well, one and all, and I will see you all again soon.

- Sean