Codependent Creators - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
11May/191

Codependent Creators

Depression Expression #5

Previous entry: "Better" Body

I've been writing criticism, in some form, for about fifteen years. Every critic's barometer for what makes a good piece is going to be different, but one of my biggest sticking points is that criticism is just as creative as the work it's criticizing. When I settle in to write a piece I'm putting myself on the line, trying to find some way of expressing what my experience with the critical subject is via style, knowledge, and empathy. Sometimes what I feel for a work of art is so overwhelming I have to take breaks solely to cool off or keep from getting upset (Swiss Army Man and Annihilation are two examples here).

Critics create art to discuss art, and the process of making that art is exhausting. I hope the exhaustion I feel getting something out there finds eyes willing and patient enough to take in my approach to understand what it is I'm trying to illuminate within both the critical object as well as myself. It's artistic labor, emotional and physical, and I want enough readers to support this endeavor so I can eat, pay rent, and live a modest life.

I also have depression, anxiety, and PTSD that manifests in extreme codependency. So any time I've been comfortable or on the razor's edge of success my emotions and intellect start working in tandem trying to find a way to sabotage the progress I earned.

I found a way to make it seem selfless when my writing was at its hit-count (not creative) peak in 2013. When I was pulling in a shade over four thousand hits a day I told myself that it would be wrong to monetize my work to try and make a living because I had access to education others don't. Whatever benefits my education gave me meant that whatever I could impart to others through my writing needed to be free otherwise I'd be just as bad as the university system I'd come to be suspicious of. There was a component of "authenticity" I was concerned with too - refusing to accept stream keys or seek out free tickets so that I'd be in the exact same position as the audience I wanted to write for.

There's little doubt in my mind that there's people out there who are artists for art's sake, but my reasoning in this instance was self-destructive. I was using language cloaked in good intention to convince myself out of working toward a healthier life. While this surprise success was going on I kept working in my emotional labor heavy job where I might be consoling someone on the loss of their family member one minute then helping another find a way to rebuild their home. The needs of people, some of which were purely hypothetical, took precedence over everything else.

This started creeping into my writing when I got into therapy as I had to start asking if I was writing for myself or for the hypothetical. The answer is complicated in that I'm writing for myself first and my audience second with the strong hope that I'd build up enough of an audience for a life. Yet I'd blow myself up anytime that possibility came close to becoming a reality. Even in the confines of an art form I believe so strongly in, I couldn't stop derailing myself for people that just didn't exist.

Social media's made this worse. I've gone from poorly maintained message boards to blog sites to our Facebook / Twitter era and my imaginary judging audience grew alongside social media. Now I can add potential employers to that mix as job searching might entail a request to link to yet another social media site where I need to further expose myself. It's in the silence of all those imaginary people and potential employers where my mind is free to make up the worst reasons why things aren't as they could be.

Sometimes it feels like every piece of modern communication is designed just to see how much of yourself can be exposed to a cold vacuum before breaking entirely, and I don't have easy answers for how to feel better about it. The only exception was in the case of my writing. When I announced my hiatus I felt a sort of weight come off me as I was wrote about how unhappy and in pain I'd been these last few months. But the overall effect wasn't too far off from the excuses I told myself whenever things were going well. Instead of allowing myself this outlet for communicating in the way that makes me feel best, I decided cutting myself off entirely was the thing to do.

I'm trying hard not to lie to myself like that anymore. It's just that when I'm in pain, things are strained bordering on breaking, I'm terrified for my family, and silence has been the default response for so long it's easy to slip back into old habits. I just have to remember, this is for me. I built this with friends but now it's a space where I can share what I want in the way that brings me the most clarity. That - for today - is enough.

Image is from Ingmar Bergman's Through A Glass Darkly, featuring a father who uses his daughter's illness for writing inspiration.

Next entry: Numb Day

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Posted by Andrew

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