Sorry, not sorry – I like Taylor Swift. For the most part, I find her music fun to listen to and her lyrics can be jaw-droppingly insightful.
When I heard the buzz about “Look at What You Made Me Do,” I scooted over to Youtube and checked it out. No offense to Ms. Swift or the millions of her fans, I turned it off after about a minute. Stunning visuals, but the music didn’t light my fire. Then I started working on another short story.
That, in a nutshell, is one of the key benefits of living a creative life. You get to turn off the torrent of ‘buymebuymebuyme’ coming out of your television or phone. Your attention is focused on a key human experience, one that is guaranteed to give you some type of satisfaction. I’ll be honest: consuming only seems to make me happy until the next upgrade comes out.
This is nothing new. Political news shows keep their audience in a lather for the next election cycle, too. What I want to talk about is the how science fiction is now on the same hedonic treadmill. Since 2002, we’ve chased an endless Superhero Movie / Star Wars release cycle now. A new Star Wars movie coming out every year? A new Marvel movie coming out every year? When do we get a chance to step back from the rollercoaster ride of anticipation followed by release followed by discussion followed by anticipation for the next movie?
Our role as consumer/commentator has taken on a life of its own and it’s getting weird. For example, after watching ‘The People Vs. George Lucas,’ I’m firmly convinced that the makers of that film – and many of the sci-fi/geek community – missed the point of the exercise. Simply put: if you don’t like what the kids in the sandbox are doing, then go find your own sandbox! Is it too obvious to say that if you’re disappointed in an artists’ work you can simply go to another art gallery or, God forbid, paint your own pictures?
This should be a reflex action in humanity but it isn’t, and here’s why: modern culture conflates the act of consumer commentary to be an act of creativity itself. Chris Hardwick is a great guy, but he started out as a radio DJ and stand-up comic, only to create the Nerdist media empire, whose business model is based entirely on people talking about movies or shows they like.
Does anyone else feel this way? Seems odd to be experiencing a Thoreau-esque epiphany like this in my Oregon apartment, but I’m finding that simple living has become ‘The Road Not Taken.’
I don’t simply live for its own sake, I’m doing it so I can focus my attention on telling stories. A surprising ancillary benefit to creativity is how free I feel to let go of the acidic newspop cycle that blares forth from every outlet. And don’t kid yourself: this isn’t a call to arms for anyone. If Edward R. Murrow could not stem the tide, I hold out no hopes for myself. This is being written for me, you, and anyone else looking for an anodyne to the deafening roar of Pop Culture, Inc.
Creativity is a curative act. Forget the health aspects of creativity, and focus on this: Creativity keeps you grounded. Present. Humble. When you make it and you step back, there’s a sense of satisfaction that nothing else on this planet can give you. The little voice that says: I did it. I made this. Nobody can take that away from me.
Additionally, creativity gives you license to focus on what matters to you. Do Brad and Angelina matter to you? Does the ‘Monkey Selfie’ matter to you? Does the Chargers v. Broncos game matter to you?* Of course not! None of those things really matter, but Pop Culture Inc. thinks they should matter. They pump it out and you we get sucked into paying attention, every single time. Rather than spewing another Jerimiad entitled: ‘why are we paying attention to this nonsense,’ I can simply say: “I’m working on my next project, I don’t have time for that.”
- That means I don’t have to care about who directs Star Wars: Episode IX.
- That means I don’t think about the next installment of Marvel Magic Punching People.
- That means I don’t get sucked into the drama of the current season of Game of Thrones or the HBO hack.
Being creative means I no longer have to search for the answer to the question: “This isn’t worth our time, why are we focused on this?” I can say “if that’s your thing, you do you. I’m focused on this.” And let me tell you, it feels great. Focus on big ideas. Invent new universes to play in. Mess around with concepts and put them together in fresh and unique ways. Take a chunk out of the universe. After all, that’s really what we’re to do.
I’m posting this as an option for those of you that are burned out on the perpetual commentary/outrage machine that we’re plugged into. If you feel the same way, then welcome home. You’ve found a place here.
* These were the stories I plucked off my Facebook ‘News Feed’ this morning in preparation for this post. I’m keeping them here so that in six or twelve months, we can all have a laugh at how dumb they really are. Maybe that will help us understand how dumb the current scandals-du-jour are.