Five Years Out

Last weekend I unexpectedly visited my undergrad alma mater, The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) with two of my favorite people on the planet, who I happened to attend said school with.

While I’ve been back there before, and was even on an alumni panel for my major one year, I hadn’t gone back since another chapter of my life closed. Immediately following TCNJ, I began grad school at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in NYC. In my program at SVA, you could either finish it in 2 years full time or over 4 years part time. I did a mix of both, but the point was, once those 4 years were up, you’d have to start the program all over again.

While I was happy for the new graduates out of TCNJ this May, I was a bit bittersweet towards the SVA ones. This would have been the year I graduated from SVA, if I hadn’t dropped out.

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When You Know Your Writing But People Don’t Believe You

A few weeks ago, I was very proud of myself for a very simple thing. I showed somebody some in-progress writing that I was working on–a script, more specifically–that I was planning on shooting soon. I’m the type of person who managed to go six years in art classes and rarely show any of my work. I’d go out of my way to game the system, to wait until the end of class or show something else or show something intentionally bad, like stick-figure thumbnails of what the final product would look like in order to avoid it. It was, is, and, fucking hell help me, the biggest issue that I deal with as a creator. There’s a whole memoir in me about my art anxiety, imposter syndrome, mental handicaps, simple fear, and just oddly and inexplicably low self-esteem I have about the creative side of myself, to the point that I still can’t even call myself an “artist” or “writer” or “creator” without feeling like an asshole. For fuck’s sake, my very first post on this site in 2014 directly addresses this issue: this blog is meant to be a direct, opposing force to said feelings.

This person didn’t know this about me, but did know that I don’t show things often, I don’t talk about things often. If I’ve done so with you, congrats! I love you and we can unceremoniously boil you down to being a safe space for me in trying to find my own self-love. The friend I was with is the type who likes to link everything back to parental issues; things like how you dress or eat, whether you wear makeup, things that seem asinine at times. But I know there is truth to some of this. I’ve read enough Malcolm Gladwell books to not ignore the nature/nurture argument just because it presents things I don’t like. I do think that this particular friend places too much emphasis on it though. It’s sort of like that scene in The Devil Wears Prada where Meryl Streep’s character schools Anne Hathaway’s over a blue sweater and the illusion of choice.While not a perfect or full picture, the scene serves as a reminder that many of the things we do, the ‘choices’ we make in our daily lives are not necessarily our own, or we aren’t fully conscious of them or their origins. But at the same time, Anne Hathaway’s character, for whatever reasons, did make the choice to buy that sweater, not knowing the context that Streep’s later presented. But I understand that this was more about the options available to a person.

When I showed my friend the script, I was proud of myself, and my work. But my friend immediately picked it apart, which in and of itself is not the problem. Despite aforementioned issues, I am not immune to criticism and it’s benefits, as well as the divorcing of the actual criticism from the person who is delivering it (in terms of your personal relationship with them vs. their input as a critic). My friends biggest issue wasn’t so much the content itself so much as the fact that I was even showing it to them. To them, this proved that it was not ready–that I was not ready–if I needed reassurance from someone else. That if I needed a second opinion, it invalidated my confidence in the piece. They then went on to argue that the writing was trying to be something it was not, completely neglecting any potential context or reason why I would write something in a different–in this case, more formal and academic voice–than my usual casual blog post or my usual way of speaking.

So I defended myself. I took his criticisms about the tone and voice of the piece to heart and did make some changes that bettered it. But I also explained that I was happy with it, and just happy that I was finally making again and wanted to share with someone I thought would be happy and supportive. I thought they specifically would appreciate the piece as it was about a topic they enjoy. I explained that the educational nature of the piece prompted me to avoid my usual f-bombs, anecdotes, and brazen casualness.

To them, I got defensive. That this reaction was a reflection of how I feel about myself. Which it totally was. But not in the way that they were assuming.

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