Pausing my re-drafting of Mike Sierra Echo to remind you (and myself): your art matters – even if it sucks. It’s been a tough couple of weeks, re-writing entire scenes, re-configuring and re-architecting the novel. I have a better sense now of what the emotional beats of the story are and I’m making sure the novel contains the ingredients it needs to connect with readers.
That said, part of me is like: ‘does this matter? Will people love the story? What if my writing sucks?’ Those negative intrusive thoughts are always there, eroding my confidence if I don’t actively do something to manage it. That’s why this little post on Reddit felt like a shot in the arm – your art matters, even if it sucks. Here’s a thoughtful breakdown of that powerful idea, courtesy TheBirminghamBear:
It is not possible to properly estimate the value of an individual. Which is why every individual must be afforded the opportunity to express themselves, in whatever form that expression takes. Because it is there, in the confluence of all of us reading, writing, painting, and theorizing, that true progress is made.
You can say that’s a sentimental notion, but it isn’t. The corporate conception of human worth isn’t realistic or pragmatic, it’s childish, simplistic, reductive and stupid. It is a view which appeals to the stupid and which makes the individual all the stupider for embracing.
The realistic perspective on the reality of humanity is that every human mind is unique, and that the value of its expression can not be properly understood or evaluated by anyone. If Van Gogh’s value could not have been properly understood by his contemporaries, how can anyone out there dare say they have the capacity to judge the true value of anyone?
Humanity is billions of unique nodes interlinked, communicating, building. No single person is smart enough to truly understand the emergent properties of that network. Just as the creators of an artificial intelligence don’t fully understand what their creation does, or why. No single person has the capacity to properly attribute all the essential influences and inputs that lead to a tangible output. The capitalist needs to pretend they can, because profit is dependent on ownership, and ownership is based on the delusion that you can justly compensate someone for their output.
Everything around us is only possible because of the size of the network of our species. We have gotten where we are despite the divsionary forces like capitalism that exploit and detract from our ultimate potential. Long, long before we printed paper money, we built tools, we conquered the animal kingdom, we created languages out of nothingness and abstracted and codified the concrete properties of our material reality on stone tablets and paper, because it is who we are and what we do.
The delusion that profit is behind innovation is one that humanity is far the worse off for sustaining. It isn’t within an individual that the spark of innovation resides, but in the connections between us. And the more each mind and voice among us is given the opportunity to contribute to that web of connection, the richer we all become, even when we have not the capacity to understand the true value of someone’s contribution to us until many years or decades after their time has come and gone.
Thoughts and Conclusions
Let me speak for a moment on why this is so important. Some might read this post and go ‘wait, you’re saying your novel sucks?’ No, of course not – I’m doing everything I reasonably (and unreasonably) can to make sure it doesn’t suck! 🙂 Thing is, it’s always in the back of my head – the little voice going it’s not enough – your work sucks – nothing you do is worth anything. Every day, every written line, every Mastodon toot, every blog post – that’s me pushing back on the little voice.
Anthony Bourdain, great guy that he was, understood this struggle. He said: “I understand there’s a guy inside me who wants to lay in bed, smoke weed all day, and watch cartoons and old movies. My whole life is a series of stratagems to avoid, and outwit, that guy.” In fact, there’s a guy who talked about some lessons learned about productivity and self-actualization from Bourdain that you might appreciate.
Whole Lotta ‘Not Giving Up’ To Do
So I’m getting back to work on a Sunday morning. My art might suck, but it matters. This is me saying ‘I’m not giving up, I matter.’ One of these days I’ll figure out why this is all happening and we’ll share some important lessons learned. In the meantime, I’m reminded of the last lines in Bukowski’s Post Office: ‘In the morning it was morning and I was still alive. Maybe I’ll write a novel, I thought. And then I did.’
Gotta go folks – I have a whole lotta ‘no giving up’ to do.
Write on! 🙂