Documenting the experience
It's 3:23 am as I'm writing this. My family and I are at a hotel in the Palm Springs area, and I always struggle to sleep the first night when I'm away from home.
While tossing and turning, hoping to find just the right position in bed for slumber, my mind started bouncing thoughts about work, until it suddenly asked me a question.
"Why are you writing so much, Dave?"
I had to pause on that thought for a minute because at first, I wasn't sure I really knew. I have thoughts that something I write might turn into a potentially bigger project (I've been eager to get my next book going, but uninspired for a topic), but other than just keeping the literary wheels greased [link back to Write Everyday post], I wasn't sure I knew why I was writing.
I use a program called Notion for all my writing and note-taking. A couple of weeks ago, I started posting random thoughts into what I call an Idea Sandbox, where the thoughts are somewhat related to each other. Here's the first one, completely unedited for context:
The premise of this idea is that I have struggled with making a name for myself, typically from my own devices. I change my mind a lot, I don’t spend as much time creating as I should, I don’t spend as much time promoting as I should, and I don’t push for collaboration as much as I should. So I am not great at this game, but I keep playing it. I cannot stop myself. But where I lack in social proof and business acumen, I excel in conviction to an idea. So the question becomes, how does this idea precisely manifest itself into something more tangible?
That was the genesis for everything I've written since, and the sandbox has gotten a lot longer, with about twenty different topics to touch on. Some will become posts, and some will fade away, but I'm trying to be better about documenting some of my random thoughts just in case they contain something special to touch on later.
Tonight's inspiration was different. I could have reached over for my iPhone, plucked the basic premise of this idea into the sandbox, and then rolled back over in bed, but this idea was more compelling. It needed to be worked on right now.
So here I am in the dark of my hotel room, lit by the amber hue of my laptop screen, sharing the direction of these posts. They are the transcription of my creative process.
I've documented my process in many ways, from video and audio to designing posters and magazine layouts that talk about it, so the process is nothing new, but documenting it consistently in written form is somewhat different; a return to my roots, I suppose.
If you were asking me why I'm writing, I could leave my explanation at that, but then if you are like me, you might go deeper.
"Ok, so why are you documenting your creative process in the first place, Dave?"
Part of me wants to believe that this might help someone else see things in their own work. I've had that happen before, and it's wonderful to hear that something I've done helped somebody else get ok with what they are doing. However, that's not the only reason.
The more realistic and selfish reason is that I want to justify my work to myself. I write this stuff down to remind myself daily that I am working at something. I'm not getting paid for this, and I know it's not widely read by others yet, so the likely conclusion is that this is a reminder to myself that I deserve an opportunity to create.
The next question I would ask myself is, "Why do you need a reminder that you deserve to make things?"
Because artists are fucking weird, man. We make stuff because we're compelled to do it, but then we want the world to love it, and if people don't immediately express their love (in the form of dollar bills), the whole process feels like a waste of energy. Some artists will walk away from their love of making because it kills them to make and not be rewarded for it.
I write this stuff down because it's a way for me to tell myself that it's still ok to make these things regardless of what happens next. Someone might read this post and love it so much it changes their life, but the reality is that nobody reads it, and that's ok too. I didn't make it for them. I made it for me, but if they find it, that's awesome.
I'm sharing this in hopes that it becomes something bigger, but if it stays as just words on a digital page, then that's ok too.