The Illusion of Expectation
As I said at the end of the last video update, we’ve gone a little podcast crazy. One of the podcasts I listen to has gone off the rails a bit recently. So much so, that the host has even stopped talking in favor of typing everything out and having the computer’s text-to-speech program deliver the whole show. Sounds crazy, right? It kind of is. In fact, listening back to the whole show it’s almost like a really long oral record of a suicide note. In so many episodes of the podcast the host talks about wanting to connect and how creativity is all about connection, yet, over the course of 30-some episodes, you hear him fire his co-host, which further isolates him inside his own perspective, start doing more episodes without any guests at all, basically talking to himself until…now…where he’s talking through a computer’s text-to-speech software and a series of disconnected audio sound bites and the lyrics of songs. Kind of fascinating, actually. And even as you hear him get more bitter and depressed, and his perspective shifts until he sees his own creative efforts as pointless (something every actively creative person knows all about), he seems to present the whole show as if he’s doing us a favor. That’s what we’re talking about this week.
A lot of people who grow up pursuing creative enterprises tend to see their projects as important. I think you have to in order to feel the need to create them. If it isn’t important to you, why would you spend so much time doing it? However, they tend to confuse the reality of the situation—that their work is important to them—with a much more grandiose idea—that their work is important to everyone.
Now, with the internet, where people who work long and hard enough can find a few other people that consider their work valuable, there comes a period of time where that impulse becomes even more confusing. There’s a time at which the creator experiences some of the success they’ve always wanted—getting real feedback from people they’ve never met who are emotionally invested in their project—but without the other aspects they’ve always associated with success—industry recognition or money. That imbalance starts to create a kind of rift in the mind of the creator, where they start to see the audience as this unappreciative content devourer with unrealistic expectations and an unquenchable thirst for the creator’s unique voice. Why? I went through this phase with PoPS quite a few years ago. Where I had this chip-on-the-shoulder attitude and felt like the audience was forcing me to sit here at this desk doing VFX for days and hours because they NEEDED my story. Like, I legitimately started to resent the people who were kind enough to watch my show. What.the.EFF? I think it must be a fairly common reaction born of the validation felt when people agree that your work is good, but the disappointment when you’re whole life doesn’t change because of that.
That’s where the entitlement comes in. This podcast host is like—“You guys showed up because I did this thing, but I don’t feel like doing that thing anymore, so I’m going to do whatever I feel like and since you’ve been sitting around waiting for me to make something, that should be good enough for you.” It’s like—“I don’t feel inspired. Here’s the bare minimum I can produce. They better appreciate that I give them something from my brain even if it’s something I put zero thought into, because every half-formed thought from my creative brain is worth concentrated study and appreciation.” At the same time he’s condescending about all sorts of other artists that he thinks he’s above and talks down to any audience member who might be thinking of engaging in their own creative enterprise. Wow. I guess I’m about one more episode away from unsubscribing to this slow motion train wreck. Didn’t realize I was so annoyed by it.
I’m probably also annoyed that I ever had that kind of audience-resenting reaction in my own life. That was a long time ago, though. Balance can be a hard thing to land in any aspect of life. Mostly, I think we just have too many avenues for public complaint now and too high opinion of ourselves in general.
We see that all the time when we’re driving. The rage we feel when we get cut off or if someone thinks they had the right of way at an intersection. That head-shaking look of resentment when someone forces their will to affect your day. The realization that we’re not the main character. We’re all just one big ensemble cast of seven billion.
No one is waiting for us to do anything. They’re too busy doing their own thing. The fact that it’s important to us should be enough.
Also, we got a very nice mention on Grantland.com in a list of the 10 weirdest channels streaming on Roku. You can tell how far I’ve come in my own mental health on this topic when I’m so thrilled to get such a nice write-up sandwiched between a bird watching channel and a channel on war games with historic miniatures. Check it out if you like, we’re the second-to-last show on the list:
Thanks for reading.