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10 July 2007 @ 08:26 pm
Creativity and depression  
I would usually write about this on my books filter, but I thought this book--or my thoughts on it--might be of interest to a wider fannish audience as well.

The Van Gogh Blues by Eric Maisel is not a book I would have considered buying, but it was in a bundle of books being thrown away and the subtitle: 'The creative person's path through depression' caught my attention. I believe the book's somewhat badly packaged/marketed; I expected it to be pretty wanky. I certainly didn't expect it to be so resonant for me personally. Maisel's definition of creativity is an inclusive one--he isn't just talking about those that make money from art/music/writing, etc, but also hobbyists or professionals who use creative thinking in their work (eg. research scientists).

Here I've attempted to give a brief summary of the main premise of the book, then a discussion of its meaning to me personally, and finally some notes on ideas it through up for me about fannish creativity specifically.

Summary
Maisel examines the high incidence of depression among creators (artists, writers, craftspeople, musicians, etc). His central premise is that they 'experience depression simply because they are caught up in a struggle to make life seem meaningful to them.' He is careful to emphasise that there may well be other causes (biological or psychological) for their depression and that treatment for these through medication, talk therapy or other methods may well bring relief for the symptoms, but it does not address what he refers to as the 'existential depression' that creators face on a daily basis in their work.

Maisel's work is not flawless--I think he generalises too broadly at times. I am sure there are creators who don't manifest depression, even if they struggle with the same 'meaning crises', and I'm sure that there are many people who experience similar existential depressions but who do not view themselves as creators--until recently, I was one of them. (He also uses the masculine and feminine pronouns interchangeably, which I've always found a particularly wanky way of attempting gender neutrality--but that's a side issue.) However, his central premise is a compelling one:

every creative person comes out of the womb ready to interrogate life and determine for herself what life would mean, could mean, and should mean. Her gift or curse was that she was born ready to stubbornly doubt received wisdom and disbelieve that anyone but she was entitled to provide answers to her own meaning questions.

The link between depression and creativity lies, for Maisel, in this matter of meaning creation: 'Creators have trouble maintaining meaning. Creating is one of the ways they endeavour to maintain meaning.' Through their work, they force their lives, life itself, to mean. Maisel explores two examples in detail--a novelist struggling to write a second novel, a working mother trying to justify her creative pastimes. What he encovers is that no matter what circumstances the creator is working under, crises of meaning recur naturally. They may begin with the creator questioning the worth of their work, but they can generalise and grow in scope--the creator starts wondering if it's worth even trying to make their work: was any of their work ever any good? why are they wasting their time? They get consumed by guilt, doubt and fear, and they may be scared to face what this fear is about at it's core: 'The fear, simply put, is that if he investigates meaning, he will be forced to recognise that meaning does not exist. He will be forced to conclude that all meanings are illusions and that there are no compelling reasons to do anything.'

The hopeful message that Maisel gives is as follows: We must investigate meaning even though we wish we didn't have to, even though we pray that meaning would just stay put, and even though we dream of a time when life might simply mean. The good news--the great news--is that having this unwanted conversation about meaning may lead to liberation, not greater depression.

His suggestions for how this could be achieved are deceptively simple. His remedy is to advocate that:
1. the plan of your life is meaningful
2. the work you do is meaningful
3. the way you spend your time is meaningful.
I'm sure only a lucky few of us manage all three simultaneously--and that's what Maisel explores. He stresses that it's natural to struggle to find meaning at these three different levels--you may have meaning in your overall life plan, for example, but still be working at Macdonalds... ;) But actively striving to find meaning in these three areas is Maisel's answer to the existential crisis, and the rest of his book explores supporting steps towards this goal: handling negative self-talk, braving anxiety, creating a support network for oneself, healthy versus unhealthy narcissism, handling addiction (*whistles at the ceiling*), handling relationships with other creators, taking action, and so on.

Personal resonance
My own relationship to creativity and depression has been very black and white until recently: depression defined my entire life until age 23; creativity was what I defined my life against. Even as a small child, I regularly destroyed everything I made. I tried lots of things--drawing, pottery, dance, writing, you name it--but ended up hating each (and myself). Even as a uni student, I was drawn to fairly dry, esoteric subject areas. I wrote myself off creatively and rolled my eyes at people who would try to tell me that creative work might be enjoyable or therapeutic in some way. Not for me, I thought. And yet, I loved working with creative people. As an editor, this is probably the No. 1 thing I enjoy about my job--not just working with authors, but working with designers, with intuitive publishers, with creative problem solvers on the production team, etc.

But last year, something changed for me. However strange it might be, it's vidding that's made me think twice about my relationship with creativity. For the first time, I managed to complete something that was uniquely mine and which I was quietly proud of. Oh, I could see the flaws in my first vid--and I knew that a more experienced eye than mine could probably see a myriad more--but they were flaws I was comfortable with because the sheer amazement at having completed a vid at all outweighed them. And I found it addictive! With each vid I've made I've gone through a process of self-doubt and overcome it with a frenzied drive to finish it anyway--in doing so I've ended up in four out of five cases with something I was proud of for my own personal reasons, regardless of how much others enjoyed it. And it was of course an enormous boost to receive positive feedback on the vids--perhaps that validation is so important to creators precisely because they go through such a strong self-questioning process as they create. I've found it exhausting but I can't turn away. It's given me genuine happiness in a way that few things in life ever have. I've found contentment and calm in other ways, but happiness is still elusive--and something about vidding connected with me.

So naturally in reading Van Gogh Blues, my own experiences with vidding were very much foremost in my mind, and Maisel's message resonated very strongly with my own instincts. I certainly identify as someone who struggles with meaning at all levels of life. And in constructing something--in my case, vids--I've found a small level of peace and satisfaction. But only when I really engaged with and pushed through my self-doubt and 'meaning crises'.

At the time I read the book, I had been unable to vid for a week or two. I was 'blocked', you could say. It's probably no coincidence that I started vidding again almost immediately after finishing the book, and I feel immensely better already, although I'm a long way from finished any vidding project. But simply by recognising that the questions that were stopping me from vidding (is this a legitimate reading of X? is anyone really going to watch this? am I good enough to pull off the intricacy of a character study of this nature? etc) were a natural part of the creative process--one I needed to engage with, not pull away from--I overcame my block.

Fannish creativity
For the personal reasons outlined above, I read this book very much from a fannish perspective and I found myself translating the issues into fannish terms a lot of the time. Doing so was enlightening. It certainly helped me understand that love-hate relationship that so many of us share with both our own work and the canon we draw from. I'm interested to hear what other people's thoughts, but here are some of the things that ocurred to me while reading:
- In fandom we're engaged in a constant dialogue about meaning within our shows (meta). This was my principle fannish activity until recently, and I found it immensely satisfying. I can begin to understand why now--and also recognise why at times fannish discussions have held particularly strong meaning for me (when they connected with larger 'meaning crises' in my own life).
- Fannish creation means drawing on a pre-established creative work (canon). Even though the meaning within that work may be interpreted differently by different people, we often feel that there is there some inherent 'truth' to be uncovered within it--some fannish creators strive to be as close to canon as possible, others use it as a springboard for their own AU works. But perhaps it's easier to understand why so many of us have a love-hate relationship with the creators of our canon show. Of course we do! They dictate meaning--we recognise them as meaning creators, and they threaten our own meaning, the meaning we've drawn personally from the show. Reading Maisel's book helped me understand why it feels like so much is 'at stake' in fannish debates sometimes.
- Maisel's chapter on relationships with other creators was fascinating because it didn't reflect my experience in fandom. It made me see that fandom may be unique in the way it fosters a safe collective creative fandom. Maisel discussed the fact that other creators can spark meaning crises for us--they may be struggling in their own work, or their work may challenge our own. His message seemed to be that these relationships tend to be tempestuous, even if they can also be meaningful, since other creators can empathise with us. He used a few examples of artists in particular disciplines forming support networks, but nothing that approximated the extensive network of fandom. While I can certainly see the threads of conflict that Maisel discussed present in fandom, I was left with the overwhelming impression that fandom was by and large a very freeing and supportive environment (that's no doubt why I hate movements to restrict it!). Or maybe I'm just seeing it through rose-tinted glasses since it's where I 'found' my own creativity.
- The chapter on addiction was also very pertinent to fandom, I thought. Maisel was talking about addictions that threatened creativity like alcoholism and other destructive behaviour patterns. But as we all know, fandom is very addictive. Yet it's also a site of creativity for many of us. Where does that leave us? My own conclusion is to turn back to Maisel's three-part solution. If fandom is purely an escape from the meaning crises we face in our real life, then it's positive effects can only be limited. But if it's part of a balanced meaningful life (the 'way you spend your time' part), then it could be viewed as positive--especially if it's a way for us to engage with the 'meaning crises' that we are facing in our own creativity or our lives more generally. I know I struggle with the balance between RL and fandom, but this book validated my thinking that the time spent vidding is constructive for me. That doesn't mean it should take over my whole life though! But I've found it easier to allow myself some time for it without feeling quite as guilty--and that's ultimately beneficial to my well-being overall. I can also walk away from it easier now, knowing that I will go back to it, that it's something I've made a commmitment to as an ongoing practice. It's something people outside of fandom might struggle to understand, but this book gave me some ways of describing its significance.

There is much more that I could comment on, but I've gone on for long enough. I'd love to hear from other people--is that something that anyone else connects with? is it just me? ;) What have your own experiences with creativity in fandom been--positive, negative or in between?
 
 
Current Location: sofa of comfiness
Current Mood: curiouscurious
Current Music: Star Guitar--Chemical Brothers
 
 
 
brokenmnemonicbrokenmnemonic on July 10th, 2007 12:09 pm (UTC)
OK, I need to go away and think about this in some detail before I even try and frame a reply - but it's a fascinating set of questions you've asked.

I might shy away from the one on fandoms and addictions, though...
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Dead Like Mebop_radar on July 10th, 2007 12:23 pm (UTC)
Do come back! :) This book made me thinky for days and days--I've still got lots of thoughts bouncing around unresolved myself.

As for addiction, yeah, well, I didn't want to look at that one too closely myself. ;) I think it's a paradox because on the one hand fandom is creatively freeing and that could be constructive, and on the other hand it's a flight from reality. I'm struggling to convey what I mean--I wrote this post in part to articulate things to myself, and that's one of them I still haven't got to the bottom of.
random_seriousrandom_serious on July 10th, 2007 01:47 pm (UTC)
His central premise is that they 'experience depression simply because they are caught up in a struggle to make life seem meaningful to them.'

That makes so much sense. That is excatly it (for me, at least): he lack of meaning rocks the balance (or rather, letting the thought of no meaning slip into your mind.)

If fandom is purely an escape from the meaning crises we face in our real life, then it's positive effects can only be limited. But if it's part of a balanced meaningful life (the 'way you spend your time' part), then it could be viewed as positive-

You have put something I have been trying to articulate for a long time so much more eloquently than I ever could. Thank you.

K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Aishwarya Raibop_radar on July 11th, 2007 12:17 am (UTC)
You're welcome! I'm glad you connected with this. The book had profound resonance for me but it wasn't easy to articulate exactly why, and I was very interested to see if others would connect with it as well.
random_seriousrandom_serious on July 10th, 2007 01:49 pm (UTC)
Wow. LJ just kicked me out and posted my comment without me doing anything. Eek.

But I've found it easier to allow myself some time for it without feeling quite as guilty--and that's ultimately beneficial to my well-being overall.

It's good to hear you've found that much peace.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Band of brothersbop_radar on July 11th, 2007 12:18 am (UTC)
Thanks. *g* It's early days--I'm sure I'll go through more periods where life (or fandom) gets out of control. But the book helped give me a framework of thinking of the time spent on vidding/in fandom constructively within the greater context of my life--and I think that's very useful.
Talitha: madmartigan_1 hamlet monkeytalitha78 on July 10th, 2007 02:27 pm (UTC)
Her gift or curse was that she was born ready to stubbornly doubt received wisdom and disbelieve that anyone but she was entitled to provide answers to her own meaning questions.

That rings very true for me. Boy, do I hate it when people try to tell me what the Truth is or how I should live. I have a real problem with authority, which is why I LOVE my current job. I'm low enough in the hierarchy that I can fly under the radar, and my immediate supervisor is a little bit scared of me, so basically, I have complete autonomy. *happy sigh*

1. the plan of your life is meaningful
2. the work you do is meaningful
3. the way you spend your time is meaningful.


Hmmm. I guess the reason I don't get too depressed ever is because I believe all of those things are true. Granted, I'm not out there changing the world, but I never thought that I had to. I'm not looking for "Meaning" with a capital "M." I like living a quiet, thoughtful life, doing as little harm as possible, and as much good as I can within my small realm of influence.

But perhaps it's easier to understand why so many of us have a love-hate relationship with the creators of our canon show. Of course we do! They dictate meaning--we recognise them as meaning creators, and they threaten our own meaning, the meaning we've drawn personally from the show.

Wow. Yes. I can definitely see that as being true. I guess that's why I love AU's so much. It's my little way of rebelling against the Man. :)

This is such an interesting post! I'm glad you shared it.




K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Lois searchingbop_radar on July 11th, 2007 12:27 am (UTC)
so basically, I have complete autonomy. *happy sigh*
That sounds like my idea of heaven! ;-) Like you I often have trouble with authority, usually because I think I could do a better job myself huahahahaha, and I like independence in my work as well.

I'm not looking for "Meaning" with a capital "M." I like living a quiet, thoughtful life, doing as little harm as possible, and as much good as I can within my small realm of influence.
That's a perfect description and it's exactly what the author indicates--'meaning' will be different for all of us and it certainly doesn't have to be Meaning--unless that's a natural drive we feel. Personally I can track the times of my major depressions and see that they correlated with times when my life was majorly out of whack in a couple of those areas. Sometimes it felt as if the issue was something else, but the underlying unease was definitely a meaning crisis. I think I was having existential crises by age 7! I always thought waaay too much about the Big Questions.

I guess that's why I love AU's so much. It's my little way of rebelling against the Man. :)
Cute! Yes, I agree. It really made me understand and articulate my own philosophy regarding fandom: I think once an artist/writer/vidder embarks on a work, it has its own inner voice or 'truth' that stands independent from canon. So in beta-ing I encourage writers to find their own voice, I appreciate works that have strong emotional resonance even if they're not brilliant technically, etc. And I also really dislike the emphasis placed on the Gospel according to TPTB. ;) To me the 'text', whether it's canon or a fannish piece, is far more important--but that's the editor in me coming out. I also respect TPTB--they are creators and they have their own vision. I try not to get too hung up about what they say/think/decide--I just ride it out, enjoying what I take from their work and seeing what others make with it. *g*
Caryle: pretty Kateecarylerg on July 10th, 2007 02:35 pm (UTC)
This is an interesting premise. I'm surrounded with creative people (and I throw myself in that mix, as well), and there's a definite proclivity for my friends to experience depression periods.

As for my own work (non fandom related), I struggle with finding meaning in my writing. There's an internal script. "What's the point in writing this? It just sucks, no one is ever going to read it. I should just stop wasting my time."

I may be interpreting this incorrectly, but perhaps the takeaway from the book for someone like me is to find meaning in simply enjoying the time spent writing and savoring the creative experience.

I can't really comment on creativity in fandom since I've yet to drip my toe in there. I have to overcome my fear of sucking there, too. :)
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Sally Sparrow coffeebop_radar on July 11th, 2007 12:34 am (UTC)
*nods* I think that internal script is something most (all?) creators would be familiar with. What the author discusses in part is the fact that questioning is a natural part of creating--by holding a dialogue with ourselves/our work, we narrow down our focus on the meaning, we decide where and how and what our work means. But if we let that dialogue be a one-way stream of negative self-talk, it can flood us with depression and make us give up. Personally I really like the idea that I don't have to somehow magic it all away--because that's damn hard! I just have to develop consciousness about it, take a step back and observe what's happening and place it in context. It may be that when we're really depressed, the negative self-talk is so overwhelming that we do need other help for depression--whether it's talk therapy, exercise or medication. But as Maisel points out, all that can help, but it doesn't make the underlying questions go away--it just eases their emotional severity.

perhaps the takeaway from the book for someone like me is to find meaning in simply enjoying the time spent writing and savoring the creative experience.
I think that's a big part of it. I was shocked at first when I read early in the book some anecdotes from writers who'd come to terms with living with periods of depression and who saw it as a natural part of their creative life. I am so used to thinking of depression as an illness to be fixed that the idea of a 'healthy' depression was anathema to me. But I think there's something very freeing in that--I know I go through cycles where I'm outgoing and cheerful, outward-focused, and others where I get very introspective and reclusive--I think I'll always be like that, and perhaps that's something that can 'work' for me.

I have to overcome my fear of sucking there, too. :)
Ah, yes. We all do! ;) I still maintain I actually DO suck at graphics and creative writing, but my addiction to vidding is so strong that I don't really care whether I suck or not... mwahaha! ;) That doesn't mean I don't get the jitters when posting something though. *g* Good luck if you decide to dip yout toe in! ;)
(no subject) - blue_meridian on July 11th, 2007 01:58 am (UTC) (Expand)
Jonathan Toews does not want a sandwich.svmadelyn on July 10th, 2007 05:27 pm (UTC)
Hey, would you mind if I linked to this on my flist? :)
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Boppybop_radar on July 10th, 2007 09:39 pm (UTC)
Sure! Go for it! :)
(Deleted comment)
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Aishwarya Raibop_radar on July 11th, 2007 01:31 am (UTC)
It can act as a bridge (a mainline even) to creativity; it can also confuse or render null the notion of authorship, for good and evil.
Oh, beautifully articulated! Yes, I had lots of 'aha!' moments while reading this work, where the reasons for kerfuffles or individual angst in fandom clicked into place. I think the very fact of fandom can create a meaning 'void'--from the rendering null of the idea of authorship. And I know I have strong feelings about authenticity in fannish works--I think that's my way of fighting against that void.

problems arise with depression and with creative expression when people have unrealistic expectations, cling to patterns that have hurt them in the past and assume their meta will be validated externally
I agree, but what sort of unrealistic expectations are you referring to? I think working out what is and isn't realistic is often a constructive way of tackling the 'meaning crisis', but it can be very hard for someone mired in depression to do that--they're so far removed from reality.

These things feed off each other, but it takes discipline to make it a nourishing relationship. It's easy enough to let them devour themselves and drag the artist into darkness.
That's so true--and in fannish terms, it's that pattern of a community or frienship network turning into a negative spiral, where people validate each other's griping. As you say, it takes skill and discipline to make the process a positive one--especially with the ebb and flow that is a natural part of our emotional lives. There are times when we want to wallow, when it may be cathartic to flail (briefly) but it needs vigilance to make sure that that doesn't become an ongoing, self-perpetuating reality.

Thanks for the book rec. I've heard of it but not read it and am far more inclined to do so now. Until recently, creativity wasn't something I thought about very much as I considered it irrelevant.
wildrosesingswildrosesings on July 10th, 2007 07:50 pm (UTC)
Huh--sounds like an interesting book. Thanks for the post on it!
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Clois Crimsonbop_radar on July 11th, 2007 12:42 am (UTC)
You're welcome. :)
Nickyobsessive24 on July 10th, 2007 08:02 pm (UTC)
I'm very interested by the book now. Shall try and hunt it down.

'Creators have trouble maintaining meaning. Creating is one of the ways they endeavour to maintain meaning.'
I really like that. When I get into discussions with other creators the pertinent theme (when we're depressed) always seems to be "this vid isn't going to measure to my standards", and we have to keep reminding ourselves that nobody does brilliant work all the time; it's more of an ebb and flow process. But the quote above would explain it well. If we have to keep creating meaning with each new work, then every new creation that falls short of it would naturally be soul-crushing.

I see there's already a book recommendation above. I would also recommend Michael Cunningham's The Hours. It's more related to meaning as it is to creativity, though one of the main characters is Virginia Woolf and the other stories spin out of that, so there's a lot of connection too. There is a 50s Californian housewife tied up in there, which is also very fascinating.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Children of Menbop_radar on July 11th, 2007 01:39 am (UTC)
the pertinent theme (when we're depressed) always seems to be "this vid isn't going to measure to my standards"
Aha! That's definitely a familiar one. *g* I know personally I've already found having a mental framework with which to discuss these 'crises' is really useful. If I can take a step back and say 'oh, look, I'm worrying about the intro of my vid a lot' and then examine what my real concerns are, how much they're driven by fear and so on, I can maybe find a way back to trusting myself.

Another thing which the author emphasised was that action comes first, meaning later. So we make our best guess as to what the most valuable creative project to work on is, but then we have to do it before we see what the meaning in it is--and then while we're doing it there's a feedback loop between action and feedback.

I'd always meant to read The Hours so I'll add it to the list--thank you. *g* I'm glad you found the post of interest.
jude_judith82: Action Comics Clark Red Sweaterjude_judith82 on July 10th, 2007 11:42 pm (UTC)
I don't have much to add to what you said but I definitely want to check this book out. It's an interesting premise.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: books!!bop_radar on July 11th, 2007 12:52 am (UTC)
I'm glad. I was surprised how much I drew from it--I'd definitely recommend giving it a look.
(Deleted comment)
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: books are lovebop_radar on July 11th, 2007 01:46 am (UTC)
Re: Hi, here from metafandom
Yes, the book does discuss medication. While the author's careful to emphasise that it's a valid choice for many people, he does discuss the fact that many creators opt against medication for the reason you mention. I'd initially been wary of the book for that reason, since I'm on meds myself and have been for many years and my experience was incredibly different. For me, going onto meds allowed me the mental space to write (privately), the energy to create in other ways, and the positive energy to invest in 'meaning' in my life in other ways. So I was glad the book was not actively anti-medication. Having said that, I think you'd find a lot of the anecdotes in the book interesting--many are from people who have opted to live with depression without medication because they find it's a natural part of their creative cycle. The author's line is basically that that's a call each individual must make for themselves, and he certainly has a very positive message for those of us trying to juggle life commitments and a non-profitable but in other ways richly rewarding creative life.
(Deleted comment)
Re: Hi, here from metafandom - bop_radar on July 12th, 2007 03:59 am (UTC) (Expand)
Dionusiadionusia on July 11th, 2007 01:09 am (UTC)
This is a really fascinating discussion, K! Like some others here, I think this is going to take a long period of reflection for me before I can answer most of these questions at any length and add my own thoughts. But here goes.

I would agree that there is a distinct kind of anxiety I feel when I'm struggling creatively, and that it takes the form of doubt in my ability and the worth of what I'm trying to do. Whether that ties into the other anxious/depressive periods I can get into, I'll have to ponder more.

I was always creative, even as a small child. I would paint and draw constantly, even through high school I thought I would go to art school. But then I went for lit instead and I ended up at a pretty intense college that didn't have a huge art dept. and also didn't leave much free time for anything, and I fell out of the habit of doing it. I draw rather infrequently now, and I kind of miss it.

As I said before, I wrote poetry off an on before I discovered fandom, but had never done any creative fiction writing before I wrote my first fic. I do feel some stress while writing, but I think it's a good kind. I think I'm happier tapping into my creative side more often; I'd say my own experiences with creativity in fandom have been incredibly positive! Part of that might be about how nice people are in the BSG fandom. I always sort of feel scared to post anything, so when you get comments, that feels so good. Such a relief? Is it because it feels like other people have just validated your quest for meaning? :) A lot of times I feel like I should ask for constructive crit instead of praise, though. (But I'd be lying if I said that praise didn't delight me. It does!)

Also, I don't think I feel guilty about spending too much time on my fic creations, but maybe I should. ;) It does make me wish I'd decided to get into writing sooner, though.

I'll be back with more thoughts later, I'm sure. Thanks for sharing your story and analysis of this book with us. I'm glad vidding helps you tap into your creative side, and that this helped you through your block. Especially because we get to reap the rewards. :)
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Leebop_radar on July 11th, 2007 02:08 am (UTC)
I think this is going to take a long period of reflection for me before I can answer most of these questions at any length
*nods* I understand and it's not a problem at all. It suggests I conveyed the book's message appropriately--yay! *g*

I do feel some stress while writing, but I think it's a good kind. I think I'm happier tapping into my creative side more often
That's exactly what I have found as well--at least with vidding. It's interesting that for me I still experience great pain when I try to write creatively, with the notable exception of your Lee prompts! I'm not really sure why, as I always wrote a lot as a child, including poetry like you, and most people expected me to go on to write professionally in some way, I think.

I always sort of feel scared to post anything, so when you get comments, that feels so good. Such a relief? Is it because it feels like other people have just validated your quest for meaning? :)
Hee! I think it's such an important part of it, posting. And I think there are very few people among us who don't feel the posting jitters and don't await feedback anxiously. It's good not to get too obsessive over it, of course, but it's also natural--at the simplest level it validates for us that we've created something external from us, we've given birth to something independent from us. It's the 'published' feeling! *g* And when others connect with it or draw their own meaning from it, that gives us a special thrill, right? Because I think in fandom we're engaged in a collective search for meaning as well as an individual one--and that can be very comforting, supportive and encouraging.

A lot of times I feel like I should ask for constructive crit instead of praise, though. (But I'd be lying if I said that praise didn't delight me. It does!)
Hee, don't be too eager for concrit--just soak up the praise! ;) I think there's a real art to concrit--as you'd know from beta-ing, and I tend to think it works best where you've got a relationship of trust with the person concrit-ing. I rarely leave concrit and when I do it's only to friends who I know will take it the right way. But by all means solicit it from people you trust--I think it can be very important, and I know I need my vids beta-ed by people who will kick my ass if something's 'off' as well as those who will squee and push me to finish it.

I don't think I feel guilty about spending too much time on my fic creations, but maybe I should. ;) It does make me wish I'd decided to get into writing sooner, though.
No way! Don't feel guilty--it's entirely unproductive to do so. It's just cool that you've started--it seems like you'll find it a rewarding journey.
Blue: Chloe - Watchingblue_meridian on July 11th, 2007 01:50 am (UTC)
Oh, wow, K Bop. Just... wow. I so rarely read meta because- well, I'm not sure I can say why other than to say a few sentences in and my brain just can't process it, despite the fact I could discuss it in depth if it were in person. So often I feel like I intuit meta rather than articulate it to myself, but that's neither here nor there. Point is, I'm in awe of so much you post for the sheer density and thoughtfulness of it, but rarely can I read and appreciate it myself.

This would be such a grand exception. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this up; I want to get the book and read it, absorb it, before I venture more conclusions but- yes.

In regards to fandom? Overwhelmingly positive. It has opened up a huge social and creative network for me that was entirely absent from my life before. Through it, I have been exposed to so many stories and possibilities and creativity that I never would have experienced without it (literally NONE of my active fandoms - Stargate SG-1, Atlantis, Torchwood, Doctor Who, Smallville, Due South... I would never have even seen a single episode). Not to mention the social interaction.

I ♥ fandom. *g*
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Dead Like Mebop_radar on July 11th, 2007 02:46 am (UTC)
Yay! Fantastic! I'm so glad it resonated with you. It was quite a challenge to precis a book that had brought me so many insights but your comment suggests I did not bad. *g*
tasha18tasha18 on July 11th, 2007 03:42 am (UTC)
Wow, I need to check out this book! It seems like the author has touched on some of what I've written about in my thesis. One of the central arguments of my thesis is that fanfiction is different from other creative forms because the creator's goal isn't originality, but repetition with a difference. Unlike professional writers, fanfiction writers aren't plagued by what Derrida calls archive fever, the impossible and destructive search for the origin. Thus, fanfiction can be seen as a form of therapy. Because monetary insentives/originality aren't really involved, we can form a supportive network with each other, and we can confess our anxieties to each other (I think for the most paart that professional creators repress a lot of their anxieties.) Though Maisel doesn't seem to frame his argument in lit crit terminology, it looks like we have a similar way of thinking about things. I wonder if he has written anything/knows about fandom.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Audrey Tautoubop_radar on July 11th, 2007 06:45 am (UTC)
Though Maisel doesn't seem to frame his argument in lit crit terminology, it looks like we have a similar way of thinking about things. I wonder if he has written anything/knows about fandom.
No, he doesn't approach it from a lit crit way at all--it's very much a self-help/psychology approach, but it sounds like what your thesis explores is the ways that fandom provides a positive and safe environment in which people can resolve these 'meaning crises' in company. I suspect that could provide both a springboard or false security for those who would like to move into mainstream work.

As far as I can tell Maisel hasn't written about fandom. He has a website here.

I like the phrase 'repetition with difference'--that's a neat way of summing up the fannish creative goal.
too much sugar for a nickel: wilby by pearl_obonspiel on July 11th, 2007 06:26 am (UTC)
[here via metafandom]

Thanks for this great post. I have read and loved some of Maisel's other work, so I will have to get this one asap.

I've gone through much the same process as you describe re positioning myself in opposition to creativity, and then finally 'giving in' and admitting that the creative process has huge resonance for me. Part of it was my family growing up, but another part, I think, was that I knew how much it truly meant to me, the idea of creating something from scratch, out of my *brain*. I was terrified of it, so it was much easier to do things I cared less about. (How that connects/ed with my depression is something I hadn't thought about until this very moment.)

I'm intrigued to read more of Maisel's thoughts on how to balance on the self-examination continuum, as well as the stuff on addiction. I find I'm a bit of a scanner/dilettante - I'm interested in a lot of things, but when I get interested in something new I go through a period of obsession with it, when I may go over the line of normal - or more relevantly, functional - behavior.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Aishwarya lanternbop_radar on July 11th, 2007 06:53 am (UTC)
Oh, it's good to hear from someone who's read other works by him--I'd be curious about them now too.

I knew how much it truly meant to me, the idea of creating something from scratch, out of my *brain*. I was terrified of it, so it was much easier to do things I cared less about.
*nods* I recognise that same impulse in myself. It really did MATTER to me that I couldn't capture what I wanted to convey to others as well as I would have liked.

I would definitely recommend Maisel's work if you're curious about this issue. It's deceptively short but contains so much insight--I think it's one I'm going to read several times to absorb it. I kept coming across little lines like 'To a meaning expert, dozing off in the middle of the afternoon is an escape from the experience of meaninglessnes' and thinking 'eeep! that's me!' Napping is a symptom of my depression that nobody seems to know what to do about it--doctors and therapists just sort of shrug and suggest that perhaps it's not a great idea. But that one sentence sums up what it's about precisely. Mid-afternoon is a difficult time for me--I think I experience a natural 'ebb' in meaning, as I switch from 'day' activities to 'night' activities and assess how much I've actually got done that day and whether it's been worthwhile.

when I get interested in something new I go through a period of obsession with it
I think that's pretty common--it probably just helps to recognise it as a pattern and think about what it is about that new obsession that is important for you, maybe?
(no subject) - bonspiel on July 24th, 2007 10:58 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bop_radar on July 31st, 2007 04:46 am (UTC) (Expand)