Sounds pretty dumb, right?
We all do it, at least all writers I know have notebooks at home that never get written in because dammit they’re just too damn pretty. Despite the acres of prime note-taking real estate on £30+ leather bound acid-free paper, instead we swamp our desks with post-its, cast off receipts and torn out pages from notebooks that cost a quid for a shrink wrapped pack of five. Oddly specific? Well there’s also heaps of dice, magic cards, and an empty chocolate raisin wrapper if you must know.
Here’s the perverse logic I realised a while back that has an oddly profound effect on confidence in one’s own work. All those disposable pieces of paper with your thoughts are too easy to throw away, and we apply the same disposability to the ideas we’ve written down.
And yet here are these pristine and beautiful notebooks that we spent money on and now keep on shelves, unwritten in because we don’t want to spoil them with our thoughts. Does that make sense? Would we put greater value on our notes if we wrote them on better paper that’s harder to throw away? Would our doodles and scribbles have greater importance if we actually put them between prettier pages?
From experience, let me tell you, yes to all of the above. Writing now for six years, starting my own business, and slowly but surely coming to value my own work enough to put an actual price tag on it has all taught me better and more productive habits. I’ve probably tried too many at this point, but among those I can say actually work, highest on the list are: writing to a regular schedule, and actually valuing your own work, holding yourself to a standard*, and part of that is actually putting your work into something you care about, like a good notebook.
Most of you have that notebook, and let me clarify that the notebook needn’t be a notebook, it could be a sketchbook, a particular folder, maybe it’s music that you’ve only ever written and heard via synthesised but you never actually play and record it on a real instrument. Maybe you’re surrounded by scribbles but you’ve never put those images to canvas… I’m spitballing here, I’m out of my format, I don’t know how the same hangups apply to other creatives, you tell me.
I am encouraging you all to apply greater value to yourselves than you may have done before. No, not all of you, some of you are already out there, putting yourselves out into the world and aspiring for something new, some of you don’t need to hear it. Some of you may be staring at your desk quietly nodding to yourselves and wondering what to write. Here’s the next part, stop wondering, and just start writing something about your current project, or resurrecting one that you loved once and haven’t touched in far too long.
*Not a high standard, not even a good one particularly, just set a certain expectation like word count, or upholding certain values like adhering to certain rules.
Not serious ones of course.
When I express a love of cosmic horror, the link between horror and comedy, dark and angry surrealism, nihilism, and all of the other things I over-analyse, it’s an expression of interest and fascination that is – at its core – what geekiness is all about: an open expression of passion for a particular subject or subjects. And as a creative person I like to let free my own reflection of those genres and subjects that fascinate me.
When I started putting my own particular brand of horoscope onto Facebook, I’d been listening to a lot of Welcome to Night Vale, and H.P. Lovecraft, watching Dylan Moran, and Rick and Morty. That, and I was in a mood to write and get weird with it, as I am wont to do, previous examples include corrupted christmas cracker jokes, a crowd sourced poem about being on the toilet, and some early evidence of my own mental health issues before I recognised what I was looking at.
All of this narcissistic rambling to say that for me… it’s a kind of fan art. I ingest the media that I love, and out comes some blended product born of my own creativity. Some examples:
Aries: Check your liver against the colour chart. Are you within the safe zone?
Taurus: You have no power here, only the howling of a chained beast
Gemini: They’re closing in
Cancer: No horoscope this week, seek answers from the Grand Tapestry of Bucharest
Leo: Square peg, round hole; angular logic, circular reasoning
Virgo: Citation needed
Libra: The association are concerned about your recent activity in the temple. Burn the robes and ditch the sceptre before they send in the auditors
Scorpio: Avoid log flumes, better to stay away from all carnival activities where possible
Sagittarius: Are you doing something different with your arms?
Capricorn: Death of a spider, birth of a fly
Aquarius: Hold onto the past, you never know when you might need it
Pisces: Everything will be fine. I am so sorry
I mean… a lot of Welcome to Night Vale.
It’s a thought that should horrify you, that either the stars are so utterly powerful that they can impact the finest details of our lives in a plan they concocted millions of years before our existence, or that we impart such incredible meaning to an elaborate and contrived dot-to-dot picture in the sky that a vast industry revolves around it, and some people think it has greater impact on their nature than – say – rudimentary psychology!
I endeavoured to bring together cosmic horror and cynicism, weave in some surrealist humour, and offset it with just a little profundity that you could believe, for just a moment, that there might be a purpose to it all. And yes, maybe there is – on some level – a little genuine philosophy leaking out, I’ve written dozens of these things, and anything to which you’re willing to commit that much time must be important to you. And if it entertains a few people then all the better.
What do you do to exorcise your creativity? What sources of inspiration do you draw from, and how do they reflect in what you create? Come chat to us in the comments, or over on our Facebook page.
This week saw the end of Epic Rap Battles of History Season 5, the can’t-stop-at-one education series that began back in 2010, and it’s a rematch between creators Nice Peter and Epic Lloyd concluding with the fact that they both need a break from all of the work they put into every single episode.
For about four minutes a video there’s a hell of a lot of effort done by the boys, their guests, and their huge recording and editing team, and there’s a reason why they need a break in between each twelve episode season. Research, writing, costume design, composition, recording audio, recording video, editing, uploading and scheduling. Add onto that list the tours, compiling albums and releasing tracks for purchase, and the fact that Peter and Lloyd both have their own music careers! (more…)
And in some ways I’m quite sad.
It’s hard to believe that it has been five years since we first saw the trio of Sesame Street-esque puppets learning how to get creative, but as of June 19th this year the nerve-shredding but perversely insightful series has come to a rather dramatic and yet oddly satisfying conclusion that answered everything, and at the same time absolutely nothing. Let’s take a quick look at the journey or Red Guy, Yellow Guy and the Duck…
1) Get Creative
Nobody really knew what to expect on first view of the fabric world and it’s puppety inhabitants at first, it all seemed perfectly wholesome with the singing sketchbook singing about how to express yourself creatively, but it wasn’t long before the observant noticed something wrong with the way the sketchbook ignored the opinions of the Red Guy, later censoring Yellow’s attempts at doing something it hasn’t suggested. After a brief glimpse of the truth, and the artificial construct at play, the whole thing descends into chaos, the music becomes a painful cacophony, and the characters seem engaged in acts of madness rather than creativity.
Take the time to watch this twice, the second time looking for the little cues that are showing us how creativity is not being taught, it’s being crushed. The characters are told repeatedly what is and is not creative, and to only listen to the opinions of the sketchbook. At the end it is agreed that they will never be creative again, perhaps a hint that free thought is not allowed and we should all be normal because it is safer, a theme which is revisited later on.
We come to 2014, almost 3 years later, and the creepiest kids show has freaked out a large audience already, now it’s Time to learn a new lesson. Our group are distracted from their TV show by the singing clock who shows them the effect of time and the inevitable march of progress. If anything Time is even more oblivious to the objections of the group, shutting down anyone who tries to disagree or deviate from the path quickly before eventually strapping them into a futuristic device to marvel at technology, and finally subjecting them to the rigours of age.
I’ve heard different interpretations of this one, and I think my favourite is that we don’t have long to live so we should fill the time with stuff, “An old man died – But look, a computer!” although there’s some credit to the idea that it’s about how we gloss over the past, such as how the Victorian era is glossed over with nonsense before launching into more pointless rhetoric.
Then came the Kickstarter campaign, promising four more lessons for the puppet palls to learn. It also promises to let them go if we give them money.
Love is represented by a beautiful and softly spoken butterfly who takes care of Yellow after he runs off because the others upset him, and whisks him away over the clouds to a place where everyone is happy and cheerful and care about each other, and tell him stories, and give him new clothes, a new name, and introduce him to Malcolm, the King of Love who eats gravel. Yellow’s friends eventually find him, and bring him an egg, which hatches and the caterpillar inside calls him “Father”, before being squished.
This one takes you on a real journey, one that mirrors the path into many cults just like the cult of Malcolm, plucked from a place of confusion and sadness and introduced to people who supposedly care about them, but slowly erase their personality. It also goes into how we’re taught to perceive love, and the right and wrong ways to experience it.
A computer hijacks our merry adventurers efforts to learn something interesting about the real world by dragging them into a digital world full of flash and sparkle and wonder. Once again our Red guy is disinterested, and sarcastic, still seeking an answer to the question that they began with before the distractions eventually silence him, and as he watches his friends enslaved by the machine he seeks an escape, and in the process stumbles across the real world, which literally blows his mind (in a shower of confetti).
The shroud around the true meaning behind each video gets thinner and thinner, although Digitally gives a few clues that might easily be missed. The video is about how our relationship with the internet, how it distracts us, how it gives us license to be someone else, and how it is filled with so much and nothing all at the same time. The computer is also one of the more terrifying teachers, its hideous squeal as it drags the puppets into its realm is chilling.
Red is missing, apparently the events of Digitally were rather permanent, and the Duck and Yellow guy know something is wrong, but can’t quite pinpoint what’s wrong. And so begins the music, as a dancing lamb chop and can of spinach teach them all about being healthy. This time the Duck takes the role of doubter, and is obviously uncomfortable and tries repeatedly to escape through the ever-ringing phone, only to find grisly dismemberment on the other side.
The meaning is most obvious of all, the conflicting lessons about food are an obvious mirror of the ever changing things we are told are good for us and bad for us: “…but everyone has a teeth go grey, just eat yeast, it’ll all go away! But how much have you had today? Too much yeast makes your teeth go grey.” In the end the Duck is consumed by giant cans, the food industry behind the cameras, and we see Red walking morosely away from a phonebooth in the real world. It seems he was trying to save his friends.
And now but one remains, he is all alone and weeping, trying desperately to find peace, but he’s deprived of sleep by a lamp that sings about dreams, but this episode does not follow the formula.
Out there in the “real” world, Red finds himself a slave to drudgery and boredom, in a world full of humourless cynics that look identical to him. He almost seems to miss the animated house he left, and sits alone in a bar surrounded by nonsensical small talk while another Red creature hammers ineffectually at a piano. He takes to the stage and starts to sing the song from Get Creative, only for the stage to dissolve, and he finds himself at the controls of the House in which he once lived. He tries to spare Yellow from the torment at the hands of… well there’s a few things I haven’t mentioned.
You may have noticed the reoccurring theme of Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared, that we are taught how and what to think, and by the media most of all. You’ll see it everywhere throughout the series in adverts, screens, and cameras, and in myriad subtle ways that even the more keen eyed amongst us may have missed. There are a few commonalities that are more obvious than others, the reoccurance of June 19th, or the numbers 1906, the use of the colour green, the image of a human brain, and the only parental figure.
The father of Yellow guy is by far the most horrifying figure, a vision of immorality who is seen from his introduction in Time and slowly he is revealed as the one pulling the strings. In the cult of Malcolm, a shadowy corner where the computer had been, standing above the set of healthy, and finally reaching to stop Red from interfering with the plan.
Is this a review? A summary? Perhaps both, perhaps neither. Once again we’re spreading the love for a series that we have become enthralled by, and that we discuss with the release of every new video. It’s almost a shame to see it gone, because I doubt anything will unnerve me in quite the same way again.
Credit for a lot of these explanations must go to Vinnie at YouTube Explained although he missed a few points I felt important, but seriously check out his thoughts on the series, he’s very observant.