One Guy's Problem

For years now, I haven't done the things I really care about. Not because of any external barriers, but because of myself.

All I ever want to do is make art, like a story or a game. Anyone who knows me from Twitter knows this. They know I'm not going to wait until high school is over. And they also know I haven't actually made anything in a long, long time.

I commit to writing challenges and game jams, and I never finish a product. Oftentimes I don't even start.

I've been trying to get past this for a long time. I've cultivated advice, talked about it, written possible solutions in note after note. You'd think it would be easier; just make something, right now. Friends who care less than I do have made tons of games and written entire novels. But I can never make myself do it. Something has taken root—probably fear.

It wasn't always so difficult. My childhood dream was to write music, and I'd organize makeshift bands with cousins and force the aunts and uncles to watch us. Then, I wanted to make videos, comedy skits, sometimes animations. My brother, neighbor and I formed the group "Crazy Classics" in Elementary School, and we'd make little films out of bad jokes to upload to YouTube. I made us a website with a long nonsense url provided by my family's Verizon subscription, where I put up a guarantee that all our videos would be family-friendly and attempted a V.I.P. page for our non-existent fan club. By Middle School, I wanted to make games and started entering Ludum Dares before things started to crumble.

I stopped liking my work. None of it seemed good enough anymore. I stopped enjoying creating. I stopped.

Though my interests have spanned many mediums, there has always been one desire driving me. I want to give an audience a good experience, a good show. I'm unsure why, but knowing I've entertained people or made something that mattered to them is the best feeling in the world. Even joking among friends can feel like a performance I have to sell.

That isn't inherently bad, but the implications are disheartening: I'm not driven to create stuff for my own direct joy, but for other people's enjoyment when it's done. Because of this, I will pressure myself to do work I take no pleasure in doing. And I guess that's okay, too—but I should probably at least be interested in the product myself.

Furthermore, I can't make myself settle for anything below my ridiculously high standards, because I want to be sure it's perfect for the audience. Unlike someone who enjoys making for the making, writing for the writing, making games for the game-making, I am trapped under the weight of finding something good enough to show.

I never made a blog because no theme was ever good enough. I never finished my games for fear none of my ideas were be good enough. (Not to mention I wouldn't want to play most of them.) I still haven't written my big novel for fear no one will read it. I'm always waiting for something to come along that will surely be worth it, afraid to work with something subpar that won't be give me a strong enough image.

It's all ridiculous, and I can see that now. I don't even have an audience that cares whether my work is perfect, so I should feel free to experiment, or to blog under a generic theme. I mean, come on now, do you really care whether these words are clear and concise as possible? No! You don't expect that from me. Yet I still labor over them, because I want to be perfect for you. I care about what audiences see as if by nature, even if they aren't there.

The simple solution is probably that I need more confidence. My high standards crush my projects before I even start them. I have to believe my ideas will be worth experiencing, especially when I know I would enjoy them. I need to be honest about how I make things, how they aren't perfect, and show them off anyway, because others better than me have done the same. People can enjoy flawed work.