Me: “It’s lovely weather, it would be nice to go and write in a nice cafe, next to a brook. Trees, sky, water. Bit of inspiration.”
Me2: “Well, you’ve walked the dog, and shaved, and cleaned the apartment, and you’ve got plenty of time, that would be reasonable. After all, you get more and better work done in a pleasant environment.”
Me3: “There’s that lovely place, only slightly overpriced, with the terraces over the little valley. You passed it just the other day, remember?”
Me: “Yeah, that would be perfect. Now, while the weather’s pleasant and all the leaves on the trees are fresh, it should be perfect.”
Me4: “That place? Isn’t that place a bit too far? You’d have to take the car.”
Me3: “Oh, don’t bother him so. See, it’s not that far. The map app says 23 minutes.”
Me4: “Twenty-three minutes! That’s basically half an hour! Do you really want to be wasting that much time? There and back that’s forty-six minutes. Six. That’s over three-quarters of an hour. Not to mention the price of gas!”
Me: “No, that place actually sounds quite nice …”
Me4: “Oh, sounds nice, does it? Isn’t your house nice? What’s wrong with it? Do you think you’re some kind of special you need to go out of your house to work?”
Me2: “Well, motivation and inspiration are important. Imagine we stay indoors trying to work all day and spend that time on Twitter and get nothing done. How will that feel?”
Me4: “Baloney, if you weren’t lazy and entitled, you’d be able to sit down and grind out your work. Get a nice eight hours done, good and proper, and wrap up at three and then do a round in the garden.”
Me: “That … doesn’t sound like my schedule at all.”
Me4: “It doesn’t because you’re goofing off! Wasting time!”
Me: “Oh, come on. Wasting time? By going outside and working in a nice setting?”
Me4: “Absolutely! Forty-six minutes! Check the app again, if you don’t believe me. You think you’re some kind of special? That’s a tenth of a workday! If you earn 60 units an hour, that’s 46 units wasted. And the petrol. And the price of the coffee. Isn’t your instant coffee at home good enough?”
Me3: “No, the instant coffee objectively tastes much worse than a nice cappuccino. Also, the view is worse and we can hear the highway here, but that place we’d only hear the brook.”
Me: “And I’d feel like I’m getting out and seeing people, instead of living like some hermit!”
Me4: “Well, maybe you could see more people, if you worked properly, from seven to three, every day, instead of goofing off!”
Me: “Just because I don’t stick to the schedule of a Slovenian factory worker from 1986 doesn’t mean I’m goofing off!”
Me4: “Well you might as well be! What’s your excuse?”
Me2: “We did walk the dog. That takes an hour. Cleaning the house takes an hour. Staying in touch with friends and family takes some time. There is the bit of war doom-scrolling, too.”
Me4: “Waste, waste, waste!”
Me3: “Oh, come on, the dog walk was super nice! Reka ran around the playground, hopping, smiling.”
Me4: “You’re spoiling her! Letting her sniff everything, instead of getting her walk done on time.”
Me: “Now that’s nonsense. Also, I wanted to go to a cafe to work, not argue about how I walk our dog.”
Me2: “That’s a good point. We’ve just spend twenty minutes going back and forth about whether or not we have enough time to go out to a cafe.”
Me4: “Well, there you go! If you hadn’t wanted to go to the cafe in the first place, you wouldn’t have wasted this time! Now, if you go to the cafe, that’ll be at least sixty-six minutes wasted.”
Me3: “This literally started because of you. You started with wasting time by talking about wasting time.”
Me4: “How dare you! Turn it around and make it about me? I’m the only responsible one! I’m trying to help! But you keep on wanting things for yourself and wasting time. You’ve got to save time. What if someone needs you?”
Me: “Well, what if I want myself?”
Me4: “You? This isn’t about you! Are you so selfish?”
Me: “Oh, this is ridiculous. I’m going.”
Me4: “Oh, so you’ve decided to waste time anyway? After all the ways I’ve tried to help you see your mistakes? My god, what kind of selfish moron are you? It’s clear you’re wasting time and you’re still going to do it?”
Me3: “It’s going to be less time than you’ve spent berating us about wasting time.”
Me2: “And it’ll be more productive than listening to you smirk and moan if we stay at home and don’t get any writing done.”
Me4: “It’s not my fault if you’re too undisciplined to sit down and work at home!”
Me: “Yeah, too late, we’re in the elevator. Look, the pattern.”
Me3: “Oooh, it looks like a face. Faces.”
Me2: “Maybe we could take a photo. Use it somehow.”
Me: “Yeah, sure, let’s take a photo.”
Me4: “You’re wasting time! Why are you not listening to me? Why are you doing what you want? You have to do what you’re told! If you do what you want, you’re a bad boy! Selfish! Moron! I don’t like it when you do what you want! I want you to do what Daddy wants. If you do what Daddy wants, you’ll be a good boy! But if you do what you want, you’ll be a bad boy and Daddy won’t notice you and will ignore you and get a mistress and abandon you!”
Me3: “That’s a nice song.”
Me2: “Floor the accelerator a bit more.”
vroom, vroom, vroom.
Dislocated Thoughts on Creativity
The work of a solo artist and game designer is lonely. As a person who likes hanging out with friends and was went through over two decades of school and group work, the adjustment was hard.
Writing is easier alone than in a group: fewer distractions.
Distractions are a disaster for creative work. Every phone call, bleep, or boop, is five, ten, or fifteen minutes lost.
Boredom is a necessary pre-condition to creativity. If I stanch my boredom with the quick bandage of a chat or a social media feed, I also reduce my desire to create.
Boredom is unpleasant. It’s such a nice idea that I could just chat to someone for five minutes, and then I’d have a better answer for something I’m trying to write. On balance: no, that doesn’t work.
Taste is crucial for good work. Not good taste, but personal taste. To write something I enjoy, I need to know what I like. I need to develop and know my personal taste.
Just because I like what I’m making, doesn’t mean that every step is fun. Ideally, though, I like to try and make every step as fun as possible because it bleeds through into the work itself.
Sitting in a comfy chair with a view of trees and rivers is quite nice, it can even make grappling with different shards of the self and their conflicting agendas quite fun.
I used to be a people-pleaser and I used to have little personal taste. The two are connected. It is hard to focus on pleasing others while also developing personal preferences to the point that they are worth pursuing.
The Asshole Philosopher
Someone, who might be me, but could also be another person, went to high school only a few short years ago.
Well, over twenty years.
Dang, that’s a long time.
But it also feels like a short time.
So, this someone. Let’s call them Boy.
Boy went to high school. And Boy was often lonely and Boy’s Father was very distant and Boy didn’t quite know why.
Later, Boy would learn it was because Father had spent a bunch of money and time on a peroxide blonde lady called Mistress Secretary. But Boy didn’t know that while in high school.
Boy really wanted Father to tell Boy that he was a good boy.
But Father didn’t do that. So Boy felt like he was a bad boy. And Boy thought that if only Boy did what Father liked doing, if Boy copied Father, then Father would be pleased and Boy would be a good boy.
But, Father was really absent. Not visiting often.
And then, in the last year of high school, Boy went to philosophy class, and the philosophy teacher presented himself as Cool Teacher.
Boy admired Cool Teacher and when Cool Teacher told Boy that he was smart and good at drawing, Boy was over the moon. Boy really liked drawing, but Father didn’t draw at all and never complimented Boy on his drawing, so Boy was secretly quite ashamed of his drawing. Boy wanted to go study something with drawing, but because he was ashamed and because Father said schools like architecture would mean Boy couldn’t get a job and Boy needed to grow up and do something serious and proper, Boy felt quite bad.
But Cool Teacher liked Boy’s drawings. Cool Teacher let Boy hang out with him. Cool Teacher gave Boy whiskey and lent him comics and told him that the best and only good band in the world were the Grateful Dead and bought Boy’s drawings with second-hand books.
Then, after Boy went to university, Cool Teacher found other high school boys and girls who would look up to him and make him feel like Cool Teacher. He slept with some of those Girls and gave all of them whiskey and Grateful Dead.
Boy felt quite bad. He felt like he’d done something wrong. Like he wasn’t cool enough to be with Cool Teacher.
Eventually, when Boy was older and he was renamed Man and he had some grey in his hair and he was the same age as Cool Teacher had been fifteen years earlier, he realised that Cool Teacher had not been cool at all. Cool Teacher had been (and probably still was) an asshole.
So, Man-Formerly-Known-As-Boy renamed Cool Teacher to Asshole Philosopher. Man realised that if the Idiot Philosopher had seen any talent in Boy, the Asshole Philosopher had not wanted to nurture it. He had wanted to profit.
Man now makes a living creating art. And Asshole Philosopher owns some of Man’s first pieces, which he created when he was just a Boy of eighteen. And Asshole Philosopher bought them with a bit of attention, some whiskey, and mouldering second-hand books.
Man is disgusted.
Man also cannot hear the Grateful Dead without remembering how Asshole Philosopher took advantage of a lonely Boy to impress him with how big and smart the Asshole Philosopher was with his five years’ old BMW M3 coupe.
On Sharing Tastes
I’ve found there are two ways of sharing something we love.
“This band is the best! You have to listen to this band!”
Translation: I need you to affirm that my taste is good by agreeing with me and showing me that your tastes are the same as mine.
“I like this band a lot. Try it out, maybe you will like it.”
Translation: I like this band a lot, but that is just my taste. Try it out, and if you also like it, we can enjoy it together. If not, that’s cool.
The completely fictional and totally not based on a real person who may or may not have plied me with alcohol when I was an 18-year-old high school student character of the Asshole Philosopher formerly perceived as Cool Teacher was of the first variety.
That’s a character that would double down on his cowardly need for people to applaud his tastes by leveraging the difference in power between himself, a teacher, and his students, to ensure that more people would enjoy his music.
Do the Grateful Dead Suck?
I cannot judge.
They are completely ruined for me by the awareness of how I adopted them as my own, in lieu of whatever personal fragmentary musical tastes I was forming at the age of 18.
I no longer listen to them, however.
I do recommend you give a listen to a modern, living band, however. Because it’s good to listen to living artists and to find something new to enjoy in every year we are alive, for our experience of new and lovely things is the gift of this world to us.
Here’s Low’s album, Hey What. Enjoy. Or don’t. No pressure.
As of today, the 2nd of May 2022, the illegal Russian war against Ukraine continues. If you have the means and inclination, consider donating to help. One option is the charity Come Back Alive, which provides defensive equipment to Ukrainians resisting the invasion.