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Fear of Flying

Hey there, two readers. I’m doing something new. You see: this is my place to indulge myself. There are no stakes, and there is no editor. I could write endlessly about my life, and there would be no consequences. So I’m going to play into that, and write about myself. Welcome to my vanity. You have absolutely no obligation to come in.

But this is also an experience that I think relates far beyond my own: the feeling of creating something that doesn’t quite feel right. Almost everyone creates something in some way in their hobby or occupation, whether that’s a robot arm that packages ice cold cans of Diet Irn Bru, an Excel spreadsheet, or, I don’t know, pottery. So I’m assuming that this is universal.

I feel like, however, that writing holds a unique place in this. One of the things I love, and hate, about writing is that an essay or a story can exist in of itself. It stands there, unblinking, on the page or Word document, and it doesn’t speak back to you, or demand instant judgement. It’s not evidently broken or pristine like anything physical. So, in theory, it should be the most reassuring of hobbies for someone like me (local obsessive about others’ opinions).

And sometimes, that is genuinely the case. I wrote a 30,000 word novel back in 2012 for NaNoWriMo about a time-travelling team who are stranded in the past, and I was proud of that novel because I clocked in the time and I finished it ahead of schedule (for a wee little 13 year old, 30,000 words ain’t nothing). The thing is: that novel is terrible. I’m 99% sure it’s a disaster, from the characterisation (I did not know women, and still do not) to the plot (one twist worked… and there was only one twist) to the lack of a fixed set of time travel rules (I call myself a nerd?). But it didn’t matter. I showed it to a couple of people, but the achievement was enough for me.

On the other hand, writing is rarely as pure and as immune as Welcome to the New Age (yes, that is my novel’s title, and yes, it’s from an Imagine Dragons lyric, in case you wanted an insight into my deviant 13-year-old brain). Often… it’s made to be seen by people, and that’s where it gets all knotty. Those people will have reactions, and will make judgements. Those reactions and judgements can’t be controlled, can’t be predicted, and often can’t be seen.

It’s easy to ignore the idea that people see your stuff, sometimes. It’s what I do for the majority of my reviewing, where a lack of comments means a lack of judgement. Every now and then, people might come up to you and tell you that they read your review, and had opinions, and then that falsity comes crashing down.

The net result, ultimately is fear. It’s amazing how irrational that fear is. It’s led me to reject about 30 draft posts, some of which have clocked in past the 1000 word mark when I realised that I hated them. One of these posts was about those unfinished posts, if you like irony. This is ridiculous, of course. If I’m lucky and my post is shared somewhere, it’ll inch over 10 pageviews. Otherwise… well, put it this way: I’ve had blog posts that no-one has ever seen apart from me. That gut worry that other people will judge me for it, therefore, is ridiculous. It’s even more absurd when you factor in the feeling of affirmation you seek when you put out a piece into the world. Craving something and fearing it at the same time? As someone, somewhere, once said, nope.

That’s the thing with irrational fear, however. The irony of it is that it pushes you away from, or ruins the experience of, good things, for no logical reason. It’s the same reason why I hate flying and always worry for a while before about it, despite the fact that I’ve never had a genuinely bad flight. You can throw all the logic in the world at the problem, and it bounces right off.

I’d love to say I’ve had an epiphany writing this post, but this was simply my attempt to unpack a thought process that’s defined a great deal of what’s happened, or failed to happen, on a blog. Maybe in the future, though, this post will be here for when the back button looks like a tempting prospect instead of soldiering on. After all, who’s judging?

Aside from myself, that is.

Yes, I briefly abandoned this post. THE IRONY IS NOT LOST ON ME

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Art Is…

This post was slightly inspired by this one, if you’d like to journey on my train of thought and read a piece with a similar idea, but, you know, more of an idea.

I write a lot of reviews. I have no idea if I’m good at it, but I certainly know that I write them. They’re almost entirely of film and TV, two mediums which go hand in hand and require a skillset that’s functionally identical to criticise.

I also like music. I listen to a lot of it, and it takes up broadly the same time in my life as film and TV. But if you asked me, say, why Of Monsters and Men are my favourite band, I’d probably just tell you that they’re good, and mumble something about consistency. I certainly couldn’t articulate it in any remotely eloquent way.

And if you’re wondering what the point of this post is, well… er… I’m wondering something. Not all art is the same, that much is clear. Each form serves a different function, is capable of something that no other medium can match. Music is purely audio. Paintings, or dance, are purely visual. Film and television are both. Books? They’re somewhere in between, or above.

But all art is, fundamentally, storytelling. The extent of that story, the specificity of it, and the way the audience engages, is different, but no matter the medium, there’s a basic story there, and there’s something subjective, and personal, that lies below the surface. Theoretically, therefore, if you’re able to grasp how that story’s being told, and whether that story accomplishes its aims, and what it means (and almost everyone is), that should carry across the board. Or at least within the boundaries of personal preference. I don’t like opera, so, obviously, I can’t engage with it critically.

And so we come back to music. Music is a remarkably diffuse form of art – it can be lyrical poetry (look at how Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature), a sonic earworm (look at, er… Ed Sheeran) or something bizarre, impressionistic, and so abstract that it seems to actively defy interpretation (hey, Alt-J!), but it recognisably takes from the toolbox of things I understand as an ‘English person’ and unhealthy TV addict.

But why do I like the music I like? That I cannot articulately explain.

So I guess my point in this weird, rambling post (if you got to the end of this, congrats! But, why?) is that art is something that you can never fully pin down. Art, to use a horrible cliche that I am definitely not above, makes you feel, and feelings aren’t built to be articulated in tight prose with strong usage of the Oxford comma. There are practically infinite ways of telling a story that no one person could ever hope to encapsulate in one mind. Any given person might never click with the fundamental appeal of an art form, or click with it without ever knowing quite why. Most importantly, art is much more than this paragraph, which is just the conclusion I, an innocent boy looking up at the stars or something, came to. After all, with art, the best we can do is to understand the tiniest corner of it, even if the patch right next to it remains entirely elusive.

That, I guess, is why I can’t review music. Art is hard, and reviewing is unnatural. That’s the moral of this piece. You can copy and paste that ending bit.

Apologies for the rambling, incoherent nature of this. This is my blog, and I get literally two pageviews max per post, so I figured that there’s no harm in freeform experimentation. I am accountable to no-one but WordPress, and truth be told, I doubt they’re watching.