I’ve talked before about how much I need to create things. I’ve been this way for as long as I can recall. In recent years, the creativity has included a great deal of virtual work, building websites, blogging, and of course writing books. I used to write all my fiction on paper and then type it up. Sometimes I still do that, especially with poetry, but in many ways it’s more convenient to go straight to the computer.
Yesterday I spent building a website. I started the day with a list of things I would need to include and by half past three in the afternoon, www.hopelessmaine.com was operational. It’s not as slick as it could be and I’ve a lot more I need to learn, but it exists and the current graphic novel is on it. I have the epic task of uploading book one waiting for me.
The trouble with websites is that there’s nothing you can hold in your hand at the end of it. I get much the same problem with writing on the computer as well. At the end of the day you cannot lift up the thing you have made and test the weight of it.
Creativity is best shared. When we make something tangible, we’re sharing that creativity with the rest of reality. A substance has changed shape, a space is differently occupied, there’s a sense of being in dialogue with the rest it. Perhaps there are people who experience computers and virtual things in the same way. I’ve certainly encountered people who seem to relate to what they do in computer games as being as real and meaningful as anything done in the non-virtual world. I struggle with that, yet I managed to hold together a relationship for over a year, with only the computer as a means of communication. But then, one of those activities involves another person, while the other frequently, does not, and that’s the difference.
What matters for me, is audience. I love having an audience in the same space as me, but that’s not always possible. If I sell a novel, the reader could be hundreds, or thousands of miles away after all. A real person, somewhere on the other side of the technology, or the medium, is what makes it real for me. It’s not enough to create for myself, it has to go somewhere, do something.
At present what I did yesterday feels a bit hollow, but I know from experience that as the hits come in, one by one, that will change. As people look at it, use it and (I hope) enjoy it, the work gains meaning. Virtual creation is not so very different from writing a book that no one ever reads. There’s the same kind of dead and empty feeling.
We can of course offer our work to the gods or the spirits instead of a human audience. I wonder about this one. I wonder about the idea of deity as uber-parent, there to be eternally pleased with us. Except I suspect they probably aren’t. The trouble is that most of the time, my experience of gods and spirits is that they don’t feed back. They don’t do much to let you know they were there, and heard, much less whether they liked it or not. From a faith perspective, that offering to the unknown with no scope for reward could be a powerful kind of sacrifice. That’s never really worked for me. I have to know that someone is getting something productive out of what I do.
I have on occasion found cats who go wild over my violin playing, and other amusing, and curious non-human responses. Sometimes the sound-feedback from a space can be incredibly rewarding as a room reverberates with music. I’ve had conversations with other druids about sharing emotions with the elements, and giving less priority to human relationships. I’ve pondered a lot about seeking to replace that hunger for human interaction with something a bit more abstract. But there is a magic and a wonder in human interactions that does not compare to anything else, for me at least. I can share with people in a way that I cannot hope to share with a mountain. We are all fleeting and fragile, and communicating is not easy as we all hear and understand differently. But when there is a flash of connection, a sense of understanding and something shared, that, for me, remains one of the most magical experiences.
And frankly, I get nervous enough about how my human readers and listeners and watchers might respond. The idea of inviting attention, and therefore criticism, from the divine is beyond me. A sense of divine approval might be a good ego massage, but I think I’m sufficiently paranoid that I’d assume it was invention on my part, not something real. It’s probably the case that I could only interpret divine disfavour into my experiences, and I’m not quite masochistic enough for that.
So to any gods peering into the depths of my computer today, please just assume I’m not worth the hassle, it’ll be easier all round.