Cycling

~ So much of my time and attention I give to art. Story. Media. Images and words and entire worlds made of nothing but the dreams of others. And from time to time, dreams of my own. I cycle between bouts of reading and writing relatively frequently, and easily. Watching, playing, listening. Consuming. And then, pondering and brainstorming, then writing, revising, all the time trying to create. Endlessly, I read novels, I watch films, I listen to music, I play games — I try to engage with art for many reasons. It is just the same as the many reasons as I try to write for. To imagine, to learn, to discover, to better myself, to escape, to dream, to hope.

From my vantage, a life without these enrichments, on either front, is not one worth living. My energies shift between these cycles of consumption and creation based on an undefined mix of timely inspiration and grounding discipline. At different times over the past few years, I have fluctuated the weighting of these two devotions. I am doing it all the time. Back and forth I go, like a metaphorical, metaphysical perpetual motion machine, keeping myself aloft on these dreams. I take them in from as many sources as I can find, perhaps so that I may draw their essence forth from within me out of those same diversifying seeds. Here, I wish to muse upon their relationship, their timing, their purposefulness — that of consuming and creating.

~

Over time, the more attention I have come to pay to my time in the realm of art as a consumer, the more I have come to tilt my consumptive inclinations with a firmer intention. Time is limited, so my choice of what to watch or read is paramount. Like anyone my tastes are biased {I’ll always favor dramas, thrillers, fantasy, sci-fi over comedy, romance, non-fiction}, tempered by variable expectations {stating the obvious, but I expect significantly difference experiences, and quality, from out of Star Wars versus Scorsese}, influenced by critical and commercial reception {Basic shit: I am much more likely to see a movie if it has good reviews}, and sometimes lazy {I enjoy Arrow, Flash, pulpy genre trash, every Godzilla, King Kong, monster movie}. I have an excellent memory when it comes to art, and I rarely revisit something once I’ve experienced it. Generally, I don’t enjoy rewatching movies, even less so, rereading books. {When I do, it is typically because I wish to write about it here, and so engage more in-depth in the rewatch}.

Always I wish to keep moving, to forge ahead to the next node within the chain of the classics or the buzz of the masses or my own defaulting, chaotic choices unto serendipitous whim {I watched Clue! recently for no reason, I read Notes from Underground in an afternoon. Satisfyingly unscheduled maneuvers}. Ancillary to these ends, I also read essays on philosophy, psychology, on scientific and sociological phenomenon, and yes, even … the news. In all kinds of my voracious reading habit, I hope to gain a thorough understanding of the world around me, through the lense of fiction and of journalism. Regardless of choice, pacing, or my personally-crafted schedule to behold, there is so much I wish to experience and so little time relative to the task, so I take my choices of what to read and watch with a clear-eyed concern for the stretch ahead. I act with a conscious choice; I take my consumptions seriously. Each time I start a new show or anime, every time I venture to the theater or to the streaming, digital halls of the Internet, when I devote my time to reading or playing something to completion — I do it with the utmost conviction to create an experience worth having.

Why? To enjoy myself, to challenge myself, to expand myself.

To fill up my unconscious with as much good stuff as there is out there.

Ever since I have begun to try and write words of my own, and create stories of my own, I naturally try to gather material from these choices. Ideas, concepts, examples, descriptions, dialogue, scenery, characterizations, structures, styles, tropes and goofs and gambits. I cycle back and forth over my work as a nascent writer, running interference between the external world and my internal one in this way. Every great writer first recommends a healthy practice of reading, and I have long taken that to heart. Even so, this process of gathering, of trying to take in the materia of others and somehow store it within me with the intention of using it in works of my own, is no simple matter. I must admit there is no hard and fast ‘process’ at all. One might say … it is more art than science.

When reading a chapter, or when watching a film’s best scene, or going through a dungeon not knowing what lies around the next corner, one is not deconstructing the experience into its component pieces, judging what is working, what is making the thing good. One is experiencing the experience. At least, this is true for the best kinds of art. You are present, you become immersed, lost in the moment. Critical receptions, some kind of absorption of the craft – those may only come after, if at all. My belief, concerning the value of my voracious cycling between my watchlist and my own lines, lies within the power of the unconscious mind.

The unconscious — All the space within our psyche that we do not have access to — all the places where our best and worst ideas spawn from, where our instincts and our spirit engender the creative sprites out of the deepest recesses of our souls. The ‘work’, and the gathering of potential material, takes place in this subconscious background. Like a form of metaphorical osmosis, taking in ‘good’ art primes one for maybe, potentially, one day, making good art of your own. Relative to the rest of the field — and especially relative to your own nascent scribblings — it brings out appreciation, perspective, diversity, context. A critical eye opens. The writer absorbs what he reads, though he may not know that he is. Whether it is as minute as diction and sentence structure, or as overarching as the style of characterization and the story structure, the reader slowly but surely comes to a baseline understanding of the craft. Something is happening, and it is a net good. Fresh from his time in the pages of a master, he can go forth with a benchmark to scale his work to.

As always, these words are aspirational. Personally, I shift from hope to hopelessness and back again when reading the pages of someone like Stephen King or J.R.R. Tolkien. How could I ever hope to even come close to matching these guys? And though I do keep copious notes and quotes and save salient passages from the books I read, and tier the shows and movies I’ve watched, I have no real ‘process’ for their content’s inclusion into the holds of my unconscious mind. How could I? That’s not how it works! Of course I engage to enjoy first, and deconstruct and analyze second. I have just begun to chronicle my experiences of art in such a way over the last few years, and have done it retrospectively, so as to pay attention to my time spent consuming henceforth. To this end, I wish to engage more meaningfully with the arts I am choosing to bear witness to. In fact, I have cultivated an obsession with chronicling myself, my time, my experiences, in all respects. And this is simply an effort to better organize such things into something I can observe, reflect upon, and use. The more time gets away from me, the more I try to organize so as to gain some of it back, if only in its retrospective meaningfulness. Something could be said of my consumptive and creative choices being a kind of Rorschach-esque reflection of my inner psyche, and my unconscious mind’s desires … but such breakdowns are interpretive, subjective, mythological. Who’s to say? I’ll let the reader judge me for themselves from out of my work here in these digital chronicles, to their own entertaining conclusions.

I combat the comparisons to god-tier writers by constraining my self-criticisms unto improvements alone. I judge my work based on personal progress, and the fact that I am able to write anything coherently at all. I am working from the perspective of an absolute beginner. All of my writing up to now is what it is. Everything is a process, and every word I’ve put down up to now is merely practice, pre-writing, a form of mental exercise, all to the end of maybe producing one good page somewhere, sometime in the future.

As for the content, and designing my time to meaningfully engage with it, understand it, use it — my objective is general. By watching and reading as much as possible, I aim to build my unconscious mind’s possibilities. I want to know everything that may be possible, in fact or in fiction. I want to see every kind of expression, every kind of person, every kind of plot twist. Simply, voraciously — I want to enjoy as much art as possible! And by experiencing as many stories as I can, I may make my eventual stories better. By deconstructing them in post, I may convert such collective things as character, arc, and emotion into concepts, words, and stories of my own eventual construction. Knowledge is power, right? And it is true by the mouths of the legends that every artist steals. Lo, I hope to steal with a graceful, conscientious respect for all that has come before me.

Hypothesis: With so many images, words, and stories under my belt, and so many more to come, the first, second, and third words I spit out onto my pages become better. Developing my unconscious mind in these ways makes my first instinct as a creator better, or more effective, i.e. more likely to achieve the ends I am aiming for.

My belief in this cycle between consuming and creating — and the tandem effect of their relationship — relies on the fact that gaining this knowledge will make it necessarily easier to tap the stream within me when the time comes to write my own characters and their tales into existence. Every time I jot down a ‘story rumination, or add another singular image to my series of notes aptly titled as ‘story art’, I add to the halls and crenellations of my unconscious hold. Having an unconscious mind filled with interesting and useful and imaginative images and words is something I value quite highly. Like data within an RNG {random number generating} machine, more input means better opportunities for diverse, chaotic, interesting — good — output. More apt of a simile is the classic room of chimps stationed at the typewriters pounding away day and night to produce Hamlet. Chimps already armed with the material of Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream somewhere deep inside of their chimp-brains are significantly more likely to accelerate the production of The Bard’s best. Though this factor increase in the quality of their work may be mathematically insignificant, it is a progression for the ape nevertheless. ~