SPREY Log #20 – The Void

A lot of things are in movement right now. Recently, the server for our game “Your Land” moved. I had no idea what extra work such a server move entails, but we’re doing good I think.

My courses are going well, although I’m permanently tired since a migraine last week. My best guess is that I didn’t have time to fully recover yet. The deadlines from the courses and freelance work won’t stop, you know. But I’m taking away from this that I have to plan better in the future, that I do have the time for my health. And also, that despite my will to crunch, I can’t crunch right now, otherwise I’ll be even more exhausted the next day. The smart move is to cap the daily workload so that things get done, but the energy level doesn’t fall even lower.

Also related to all of this, I have a fantastic teaching advice for you that you can use both as a student and as a teacher. You cannot tear down without building up. What do I mean? Imagine the typical situation where your teacher has to inform you that you are doing something wrong. They must not only show you how your way is wrong, they MUST absolutely show you how to do it instead in a way that you understand it and that you can practically apply it in the future – and that it is actually useful to you. It is irresponsible to just ‘destroy’ a student. Whatever inefficient or insufficient thing you did until now, it at least brought you here. If someone just takes it away from you, destroys your confidence in this specific part of your process and doesn’t give you something else at hand, something that YOU can actually use, your whole current process could implode from that faulty bit. Then your destroyed confidence compounds, as suddenly nothing is working anymore. And then you are left with nothing. And that is not a good place to be in psychologically. Luckily I’m resilient, so I was out of the void again after about three days. But no teacher will ever pull this on me again. And I will not be that teacher either. It is especially frustrating when you know your teacher is right, but you just can’t follow them over to the place they’re at and they can’t explain it in a way that you can go there either. You are free to ignore for now and move on, it will click later with more mileage, practical experience and research. That’s what I’m doing at least. Having a faulty way of creating for now is better than having none at all anymore.

There seems to be another level of difficulty to the whole problem that has nothing to do with an individual mentorship, it is rather a broader, conceptual problem. By now I know there is a group of artists of unknown size all over the world that is like me. I would call them visual storytellers for a lack of a better word. An artist, that cannot help but look into fictional universes and come back with long form stories or whole worlds. A writer, that is in the body of a visual artist and that has grown up on movies, tv and music videos, knows and loves their aesthetic and wants to create something that feels equally…grandiose. We do not ask for this, it comes to us. But returning to this world we are told, we cannot do this. People have the nerve to tell us both that you should start small and that you should forget it, as you need a whole team to get anything of significance off the ground. Also, there seems to be this shared sense that you have to “earn” pursuing your own stories after waiting in line for many years, drawing some rocks or otherwise support other people’s visions, jumping through all the hoops all other people had to jump through, too, and then end up with a compromised version of something you would have liked to do as the pinnacle of your corporate career. But at least you had a team working on it and the approval of a corporation. And you did everything right and according to the rulebook.

Life is too short for that. You need time to get good at storytelling. My short dip into the void showed me again that I have no time to spend on getting anyone’s approval. I need to create what I was born to create and I need not be distracted with a flurry of other things anymore. The world is pretty good at distractions by the way. You must be better.

See you next blogpost!

Originality, the dreaded magnum opus and you

Rereading my pile of notes for past and upcoming blog entries – harshly disagreeing with you from weeks ago is a hilarious thing and it is a thing indeed! What has happened? As mentioned in the last blogpost, the lasting pressure to succeed is gone like a migraine. There is no need to beat myself up over things, insecurities are at bay. There is no need to become so dense about achieving that you start making stupid mistakes because you can’t even see what’s right before you anymore.

What happened? Amongst other things, I made an important discovery. I learned that everything I could hope to do in and with my creations has been done in one form or the other already. After all, works and ideas that inspire me, already exist and will also inspire others! And more works will be created with the potential to inspire future creators. Of course, there aren’t ever 1:1 matches that would make you creating your own version obsolete. There is always room for your version in your voice. But if I die tomorrow, nothing is truly lost. In the most optimistic case, one or two good original ideas I could have in my lifetime would die with me, and a creator voice vanishes in the big choir that doesn’t even sing together. But mostly, it would not affect culture in any way. I’d still feel sorry for my characters who can’t write their stories themselves, but the ideas underlying the characters do not die. They can return in other forms.

This is not self-defeating, on the contrary. Imagine the pressure you are under if you believe you are the chosen one and your future creations are so important that your premature death means the death of something new, that never was before and never will be if you – and only you – aren’t there to create it. In a way, there is some truth in that. You cannot be replicated. But creating something on a cosmic level of originality… these are expectations you cannot possibly fulfill, even if you are objectively good at your craft. At least you can’t force it.

I felt huge relief when I saw everything is safe. I still intend of having a lifetime full of creative endeavors, telling my stories and living life. Even if I fail, I cannot fail so hard an idea or a whole culture dies. I’m free. I am free to create whatever pleases me and I’m free to enjoy it no matter what I believe it’s value is. I had the looming shadow of an anticipated magnum opus over me that kept me from fully enjoying doing the smaller things. A magnum opus is a defining creative work a successful creator is mostly known for. Of course, if you yourself would know what that work is, why would you want to work on anything else? Most decide to wait to work on it for a couple of years, get good first or worse, wait until they feel ready which will never happen. The thing is, you as the creator do not get to decide what work of yours is the most popular one. Your audience and your audience alone makes that decision. So don’t worry about it and create your things, treating them equal and allowing yourself to enjoy them equally. What the dream of a magnum opus is good for on the other hand is bringing you through the difficult years in the beginning where you have to build up your skills from zero. Having a big dream definitely helps to deal with the frustrations of skill and ambitions never matching. You just have to be ready to let go off of the dream later when it doesn’t serve you anymore. And I’m not talking about giving it up. Imagine a situation where you as a child decide what you want to make and how you want to make it and how it is supposed to be. Later, as an adult, you have learned that things actually don’t work this way in reality, you know your craft and your personal limitations and your flawless work from back then actually has some brutal flaws that would keep it from becoming an enjoyable experience for people that aren’t you. Wouldn’t you want to adapt it? Wouldn’t it be an act of love to undo the magnum opus status of your own creation so that you can properly challenge and improve all aspects of it? And what if you have created things that are clearly better in the meantime? How would you deal with that emotionally?

I am lucky Street Prey(SPREY) was never meant as my magnum opus. Actually, it was a quick idea from a subway ride somewhere in 2011. SPREY just ended up as the thing that made it through and that I’m making right now. And I can take the unhealthy pressure out of that, too. There is no need to rush anymore. I have been and I am deeply in love with SPREY, every day, every working session I spend with it. I guess I will look back on this time and say SPREY was the project I figured a lot of things out with. SPREY that killed my future and gave me one.