Okay, that’s not true. I mean, it is true, but it isn’t true. Amazing art infuriates me. No, that’s another true but isn’t true situation. Is there a word for that? I feel like there should be a word for that. Hopefully not one of those long German words that I see, think about how perfect it is that the word exists, vow to memorize, then immediately forget.
Amazing art makes me feel bad. No, it makes me feel good. But it makes me feel bad. And that’s a directly proportional relationship: the better it makes me feel, the worse I feel. Probably due in equal parts to The Calling and The Perfectionism.
The Calling is that feeling that you were Meant To Do Something. You might not necessarily know what that Something is, but you can feel it tugging at the edges of your mind. That there is some Greatness lurking deep inside you, if you can only find the proper outlet to bring that Greatness forth into the world. I hear it’s pretty common in ADHD types and even more common in the hallways of mental wards.
The Calling can be very frustrating when it’s unresolved. Imagine if Don Quixote had never seen a windmill. He knows that there are giants out there and he knows he’s meant to defeat them, but he doesn’t know what they look like, where they are, or what he’s supposed to do if he ever runs into one. That may be a little bit of a strained analogy, but I’m fresh off The Newsroom and The Expanse, so I’m feeling a little Quixotic.
Amazing Art speaks to The Calling inside me. It whispers in the back of my mind that yes, maybe this is that thing I’m meant to do. Maybe this is the thing that can give birth to whatever this thing is inside me that oh so desperately wants to see the light. Meanwhile The Perfectionism is screaming that I can’t I can’t I can’t. I don’t know how to do the thing perfectly, and it would take way too long to learn how to do the thing perfectly, therefore that’s not the right thing to express The Calling and I need to think of something other way. This is why I currently have scattered around me in my office
- Acrylic paints
- Wool for felting
- Sheet music
- A piano
- A theremin
- Various cloth material
- A kalimba
- Various homemade musical instruments
- Laser-cut and laser-engraved wood
- A rainbow of pens, markers, crayons and colored pencils
- A box of rubber chickens
- Art books
- Instructional manuals
These are just the things I see by spinning around in my chair a couple of times and not even spinning that slowly. If I went through the house enumerating all of the various forms of art and entertainment I’ve picked up and put down repeatedly over the years trying to figure out The Calling, I’d have the longest post I’ve ever written and the deepest depression I’ve ever felt. And both of those are high bars to clear.
Do I excel at any of those things? No. Have any of those things released me from The Calling? Also no. Have any of these things had one brief moment where I felt like I was close to Something Really Big that could possibly be The Calling? Yes, all of them. Did any of those things have a moment following that brief moment where I felt like an inept fraud who could never reach The Calling in that manner? Yes, all of them.
“You should just find something that makes you happy and just find joy in doing that at whatever level you can. Just enjoy the process and be content in creating something.” I will enjoy the process of punching you in the face.
With all of the different things I have done and dabbled in, many have started as simple enjoyment. My patented five step creative process usually works like this:
- I like some songs that have a piano in them.
- I buy a piano.
- I like the way the piano makes noise when I push on the keys.
- You know, I’m pretty good at pushing random keys and making something that sounds vaguely like a tune.
- I need to learn everything about music theory and learn to play these six other instruments so that I can compose my ten hour symphonic masterwork that will win all of the awards and be referred to by all following generations as what real music should be.
Step number four is usually the big variable for how long I stick with something or how often I come back to it to try again. Something like music is easily returned to for me, because it’s possible to make noise without a lot of skill. If you have a broad enough definition of the word “music,” then smashing piano keys for awhile can have you approaching something that almost fits the definition. Yes, it takes time, training, skill, and talent to be able to smash the keys in a way everyone else will call music, but you can see a finish line with it somewhere in the far distance.
Painting, on the other hand, I have trouble even seeing the starting line. Sure, I can mess around for a bit to create something I can call “abstract,” but that gets me nowhere along the path of The Calling. A random blob on the page that looks like someone sneezed with a bloody nose isn’t the same as a drawing of a person, no matter how much you squint or call it art.
Oh shit. Holy fuck. Shit. Okay, I can’t remember how I first made this connection, since (obviously) my brain tends to ramble along ahead of me, skipping and singing through the woods as I try to catch up to it with my typing. Anyway, at some point my brain stopped at a pond to look at its reflection (stay with me here) and realized that The Calling was not only a part of it, but it was woven throughout the very fibers of my body and wrapped around my heart.
The Calling is cancer.
No no no, I’m not saying cancer is my calling. I’m saying the only other thing I’ve had wrapped around my heart and draining the joy out of my life was cancer. What is the metaphysical mental equivalent of chemotherapy? Well that’s going to keep me up all night now.