“You aren’t creative anymore.”
Since moving to Jamestown, I’ve been in the habit of traveling back and forth from Fredonia every weekend. On every occasion, I set aside an hour with my mother. Unlike most “aspiring writers,” I think I’m a pretty big homebody.
I haven’t entirely lost my creativity. Since going forward on my own, I’ve been building a video game, I’ve started three or four novels, published another novel, written several short stories, and even attempted to make a text-based computer game. So you might say I’m creative.
“You, of all my children, turned out very different than I imagined.”
When I was young, I was a dreamer.
In third grade, I wanted to be a toy designer. In fourth grade I made a video game out of cardboard. I drew dungeon designs and character sketches in notepads. Soon it was evident that cardboard alone would not set a sprite jumping on mushrooms. I begged everyone at school, “where can I find a videogame-making program?” I needed to learn code, I needed to find collaborators. Alas, God did not set down anyone who knew. So I drifted on.
In middle school, I made my own trading card game. I meticulously crafted rules to rival Yu-Gi-Oh or Pokemon, I laminated the cards, even used glitter and aluminum foil for holographics. I went to a card shop and a baseball stand to promote the latest and greatest trading card game. None sold.
Next, I wanted to be a syndicated cartoonist. I loved Calvin and Hobbes. My artistic skills were relegated to stick figures, but I imbued my stick figures with every fiber of expression and life I could muster. Some classmates even noticed. I even entered a contest once. Alas, those comics only ever lived on loose leaf pages crumpled and tossed in the closet.
A high school freshman, I wanted to be a musical composer. I even had the audacity to write down in essays that I would write for Hollywood, or write an opera, or for videogames. So I composed concert band marches and orchestrations. Four years later, I presented my work to the head of the SUNY Fredonia composition department. He shrugged uneasily, waved me on my way.
A high school junior, I wrote a very big book. I self-published said book, advertised it in the middle school morning announcement broadcast, sold virtually no copies, and realized that despite its litany of cartoon animations it was really God-awful. It was terrible because I did not read, because I was egotistical, because I was so stoked upon self-bred delusions that I was talented and gifted and smart that I failed to see my personal reality.
So I began to write poetry, for isn’t that what one does while steeped in the cauldron of despair? One poem was for a girl, and that one landed me in the principal’s office for sexual harrasment. They were poems which the high school creative writing club sniggered at gossiped upon as they set them in the pages. I wrote enough poems to star in my own issue. And what do you know, I have one fan.
I loved video production class in high school. As a college sophomore, I was angsty about my prospects as a writer, so I did the “common sense” thing, and tagged on another major. Video production. As if one’s prospects of becoming a film maker are remotely better than publishing a book. Oh, but I earned straight A’s in every film class, some professors even praised my work among the rest. Senior year, we set upon our capstone projects, and I broke. Failed. Flunked. Equipment privedeges revoked. Withdrew from the program. I never want to hold a camera again.
I have always been a second rate artist. Talented, exceptional, but I lack the “larger than life” attitude of the “real” hot-shot writers, musicians, and film makers. Nobody in high school nor college lauded upon me, didn’t followed me and my reputation the way those messianic egomaniacs were worshipped. I am always shoved behind. I was a “lost puppy” as my film professor once put it. For all my petty dreaming and efforts, nothing but silence, mockery, disinterest, and humiliation ever comes of it.
I feel am the next William Hung, who’s mother told him he was a beautiful singer, grew up deluded of his talents, auditioned for American Idol, and achieved fame for possibly the worst performance every broadcast on live television. Without the fame.
I am 23. I am a copy-editor at a small city newspaper. I speak to no one. I am a castaway. I live alone. Still dreaming. Still writing.
I try. I try. I try.
I die. I die. I die.
I read books, hoping one day to redeem myself and master my writerly voice. I listen to my favorite bands, hoping one day that black metal opera written by A.C. Glasier may yet appear on stage. But a part of me knows better, these days.
The circumstances of my life are entirely my fault. The world isn’t cruel. I lacked focus. I strutted about like an artistic whore from one form to the next. Nobody was there to tell me to stick to one form. Nobody was there to shake me silly, slap me, tell me that you are only a child briefly, and you are an adult for eternity. The visions must end. You must know what you are, and become it. Now.
So where is my Christ of old in all of this? What does the Christian savior have anything to do with my failure as an artist? In fact, the humility his ways ingrained within my psych may have been the very cause of my failure. Every successful artist, I see, is full of pride — he must be, if he is to overcome criticism and rejection, to believe that he has what it takes, to not hurl his laptop through a window when he knows every paragraph and sentence spewed on the page is complete and utter drivel.
Then there’s this:
“For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required; and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.” Luke 12:48.
Either I’m insane, or God gave me the motherload, then set me down on Patmos and vanished. Am I a prophet?
I have no idea what to do with all this.
“I’m concerned,” said mother. “Your writing has an edge. You publish in crude magazines that don’t promote good values. Why don’t you write comedy again? What happened to you?”
I turned out.