35 years ago, I received my first accolade for a piece of art I created. It was a rendition of Krishna expounding the wisdom of the Bhagwad Gita to Arjuna on the battlefield. It was on a standard A4 size paper. I was excited to use color pencils. They offered less grain than crayons, a softer finish, and seemed to depict divinity better. But what I enjoyed most was the scraping sound on paper as I filled in the spaces. It was mesmerizing. I don’t remember the garden around me, the murmur of other kids whispering over my shoulder, the breeze teasing the edge of my paper off the ground. I used a Rotring pen to complete the outlines and it looked like the kindergarten version of a Tanjore painting with pastel colors filling in for gold foil. The Gods appeared happy to be portrayed thus.
I won 1st prize, but I wasn't happy. Instead I was perplexed. Who decided I was the best? I had been happy with what I'd created, and content during every moment of creation that there was nothing better I could be doing with my time. But I wasn't happy with the attention I was getting now.
"Was I creating art for the critics all along? Why should I create for them when I don't care for them?"
I have no qualms about my megalomania and my narcissism today. Back then, I was uncertain of my delusions of grandeur. I dreamed all day of fantastical possibilities of worlds where I ruled. Sometimes as a King, sometimes a powerful Wizard, and of course an omnipotent Superhero. I thought I was God too, but he didn't seem as colorful an entity as a superhero and I wasn’t certain who was more powerful. Looking back, I find it amusing, considering I come from a land of over 33 million gods. But I was more enamored by the DC Universe than the divine Indian Pantheon. I figured I was a late bloomer and my superpowers would manifest shortly. Wondering if I was responsible for the glitch, I often stood staring into the sun, expecting to suddenly fly up into the air. Superman or Hanuman, it doesn't matter which now. If you're wondering where this is all leading, sorry there's no great reveal. I'm still a human, like you (more retinal burns than you though).
I didn't want adulation or appreciation. I wanted to create for myself and myself alone. I was an angry, angsty, petulant child who began hating the attention and recognition his art brought him. I started tearing, burning, and destroying the art because I didn't want others to see my work, to appreciate it, to praise it. Every time I made something, I thought I would be forced to pander to their praise. Was my act of creation binding me instead of liberating me? I was this gifted 'child' and there were no brickbats, only bouquets that I had to face. Is the laurel wreath heavier or a crown of thorns?
I threw it all away and disappeared in the cycle of creation and destruction, without the reader, viewer, or critic involved. The fire to explore fizzled away and I was left with no desire to create. All that was left was the intent to destroy, and that's what I did. Destroyed my talents and gifts by refusing to use it for myself let alone, share it with others, with the world around. The world still celebrated the leftovers of my former talented self. So, I charted a path of destruction, to annihilate the part of me that everyone loved and appreciated. I eventually succeeded and all that was left of me was an empty hollow shell. There was nothing left in me to like, to love, to appreciate, to admire.
No, that's not a typo. Creation is an act of caring. I've been contemplating for years on this since I survived my own destruction and resurrected. That's a story for another day. I'm back here now walking among the living. Today I care enough about those my art will reach. Enough to enroll in a course to improve my craft so I can better communicate my intentions to my audience. So when David warns against writing shitty articles, I'm reminded of my responsibility to my reader. Yes, that's right, to you. I am responsible for connecting with you.
On a call with fellow writer, Michael, I was outlining the difference between an artist and a designer. Artists create for personal expression and leave the burden of interpretation to the viewer. A designer creates for the user and takes complete responsibility for making the purpose of creation crystal clear. In writing parlance, I am a writer who wrote solely for the purpose of expressing myself. For my personal catharsis. I now aim to begin writing for others, to make the reader understand what I want to say. To be a designer as well as an artist. I also don't want to satisfy or pander to the reader without satiating my desire to create and ideate.
Rather than a trade-off between either, I'm enjoying the tension between writing for myself and writing for others. The art of writing online, as David Perell puts it. Across the timeline of man's writing history, the online medium has offered writers a first time opportunity to reach the largest audience in the shortest time. And get feedback from the readers, even realtime on a platform like Twitter.
But I would not be able to engage in a conversation with you, my reader, if I didn't care about you. I need to care for you, if I am to share my art, my writing, my thoughts, my ideas, my self with you. The more I think of it, the more I believe that caring is the key to creating. Whether for myself or for others, I must care about the finesse of my brushstroke; the penmanship of my words. Every art relies upon attention to detail. And when I extend that care to my reader, I become a better artist, a better writer, and a better person. As humans we care for those around us; family, friends, and colleagues. As artists, we can extend that circle as far as we 'care'.
If art is caring, and design is providing, then publishing is sharing. When I write for you, dear reader, sharing becomes a celebration of creation; your praise, your joy, your resonance. Our dance together becomes the panacea to paranoia and imposter syndrome. Thank you for being a part of my process of creation.
When I write with you, my fellow writers, I celebrate destruction; with inane observations, incisive feedback, and profound insights. Destruction through iterations, from minor scratches on the surface to having entire sections amputated. Sometimes even decapitation of the very title and introduction, as in this case. I'm grateful for all of you joining me in this dance of destruction.
I’m reminded again of that creative act that led me down the destructive path. That first piece of art I created, in which Lord Krishna reminds the warrior Arjuna.
”Your right is to work only, to perform your prescribed duties, but you are not entitled to the fruits of your actions; let not the fruit-of-action be your motive. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, nor be attached to inaction.”
The problem then was not that I destroyed the art I created. The problem was that I wanted to dance between destruction and creation alone. I missed this lesson as a child of playing with others, so today I invite you all to join me.
To my fellow writers, I write this with you.
To my readers, I write this for you.
Yes, you ❤️