LAST SEASON ON the TV show Mad Men, a character with creative aspirations (acting) was told that she had an “artist’s temperament” but didn’t have the ability to match. In other words, the poor aspiring actor had the impulse to create artistically yet lacked the tools to do so. Needless to say, The Sensational One could relate.
As far back as I can remember, I’ve always felt the urge to take on creative projects. When I was a toddler I started my own band: I played the couch as a piano in sync with a Jerry Lee Lewis record and recruited a couple of neighborhood kids to join in on the pantomime.
When I got older I wrote my own stories, made my own comic books, spent the majority of 4th grade sitting at my desk in class making knock-off Garbage Pail Kids, experimented with feeble attempts at stop-motion animation, and so forth. But none of it stuck. There was never that one thing I really felt comfortable doing, that got me to a place where I was in my own zone, confident at the task at hand and at home in my own skin. I watched as others appeared to reach this state, but I’ve never been there myself.
And so years later, half-way (or more) through life, I’m still wandering aimlessly in the fog of unfulfilled creative impulse. At times I’ve thought about ignoring this impulse altogether, just checking out and enjoying the extra time I’d have for reading books, watching wrestling DVDs, and playing video games. But then the thought of a life lived strictly as a passive receptacle becomes too much to bear, and I’m led back to my meager creative attempts, none of which are of interest to the outside world, and worse, none of which I feel particularly good about, myself.
This is my “vicious circle” when it comes to artistic creation. Although I’m definitely not impervious to what other people think (in fact, I’m all too pervious), I have tended–with some failings along the way–to stick with what I’m into regardless of popular sentiment. As such, I’ve become a person with an idiosyncratic list of personal preferences and an equally idiosyncratic worldview through which to express those preferences.
It’s not that the things I’m interested in are so unusual in and of themselves, but the combination of my interests and the way I approach them, contrasted with the things that interest most of the people I know, generally result in a product with a viewing audience of one or two.
And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’m not compelled to create in order to achieve social status or recognition. I have a fulfilling personal life, and–so long as I stay true to myself–a rewarding social one as well. My material needs are met, so it’s not as if I’m seeking monetary compensation. Still, there’s a drive to create that has nothing to do with any of those concerns.
Since that drive isn’t a social one, I guess in theory I should be happy to create purely for myself. Spend a couple of hours writing an essay about existential angst as it relates to the career of Ric Flair, only to have it read by no one but me? Great! Because I didn’t write it to be read by others, anyway. And this is true to a degree. But the problem is, when art doesn’t come naturally, when every act of creation is a clawing and scratching soul-draining ordeal to produce something even remotely coherent, one starts to look externally for encouragement. Yet when one is creating asocially, external notice–much less encouragement–isn’t a likely outcome.
Hence, the vicious circle.
And so over the last year I’ve decided to come to terms with my impulse, quietly suffering away here at the “Mr. Sensational” Gino Vega blog. I write about topics that interest me when and if I have the time. The resulting transmissions can delve as deep as my relationship with my children, or stay as superficial as my relationship with Randy “Macho Man” Savage. And for me, that’s been the beauty of it. I feel like the MSGV blog is a true expression of myself, with all of the ups and downs, all of the internal inconsistencies, all of the contradictions, and all of the mania and angst that bubbles up to the surface as a result.
Does anyone read this crap? Generally, no. And that’s OK, but it does sometimes make me question why I continue. Again, it’s that dissonant tension, where on one hand quantity of readership couldn’t be further from my aim, yet at the same time, writing this stuff is such a wretched pain in the ass that it often feels like I’d be better off just thinking it aloud in my head.
Still, when I do step away and stop bothering with the creative process, the impulse cries out again and the circle continues, until recently when the smallest chance encounter afforded me a new perspective.
I woke up a few Wednesdays ago and began my typical weekday routine. Amidst the groggy cereal pouring, sock finding, and hair de-tangling that comes with getting Miss Sensational I and II ready for school, I checked my email and saw that someone had commented on a MSGV blog post. This happens from time to time, but it’s usually from people I know and user names I recognize. In this case it wasn’t, which still isn’t a big deal, but when I logged in to approve the comment I noticed the blog had suddenly gotten hundreds of hits. I assumed this was a glitch or spam of some sort, but over the course of the day the hits kept coming, all from the same post, all being referred from a link on Facebook.
It appeared that an entity with a reach much broader than mine had reposted the article, but since there was no way of looking it up I figured I’d never know who’d done it or why. However a short time later, while idly “liking” MMA pages on Facebook, I came across the link that had been turning the usual tens of ones who visit MSGV into hundreds.
The post that was getting such extraordinary play (by MSGV standards) was about UFC’s Ultimate Fighter reality show, focusing in particular on one of this season’s current cast members and how we here at MSGV could relate to his backstory. And the traffic-referring link? Turns out it had been posted by none other than the cast member himself. For the heck of it, I sent an email to the fighter, identifying myself as the author of the piece, and he sent me a message back saying he appreciated what I wrote.
And in that simple exchange my lifelong struggle with creativity reached a new place of peace. I don’t have the ability or inclination to create art that large groups, or even small groups, will be compelled to take the time to consider. I don’t have interests broad or accessible enough to strike a chord with a critical mass of likeminded people. However, at the heart of creativity is the desire for connection: to express oneself in a way that another person finds meaningful and to find meaning in the expressions of others. It’s easy for this desire to become distorted, to think that such a connection necessitates a legion of participants, when in reality even the smallest of connections can be enough to make one feel whole.
For the first time ever, after writing something about a complete stranger, that stranger came across what I wrote and felt some connection to it. Who knows if this will happen again. What matters to me is that it happened once, and that’s enough external encouragement for me to keep hacking away at this stuff whether anyone else lays eyes on it in the future or not.
And so I’ll keep on keeping on here at Sensational HQ, spitting out my dusty missives from time to time. At the very least, it’ll give Miss Sensational I and II something to sift through when I’m gone, weirding them out that there was more to their dad than a broom and dustpan. Though, to be honest, broom and dustpan pretty much covers it.