Pinterest GraphicI used to be the type of person who wouldn’t read fiction if I was writing short stories, and I felt like I couldn’t listen to music if I was writing poetry. I would avoid consuming things that were similar to the things I wanted to create for fear of stealing–but let’s be real, for fear of not being original.

My avoidance morphed into a slightly dangerous depression; a gelatinous, effervescent menace that simultaneously convinced me that there was no audience for the things I wanted to create, yet just buoyant enough to convince me that at least I was being Original. I was so depressed by my inability to be original that I allowed myself to exist in a quagmire where I never finished anything, and certainly didn’t allow myself to LIKE anything I made, either.

I was just a black hole, in a constant state of collapsing in on myself.

If I was going to survive, I had to figure out why I was obsessed with being Original–and I don’t use that phrase lightly. I have been suicidal over an inability to create–but it was so much worse than an inability. It was a paralysis, really. Or a disease that took over my mind.

When I examined my obsession with originality, I realized it didn’t feel like it was coming from within–because my favorite stuff tends to rely heavily on knowledge of other things, or at least, my experience is always enriched by having knowledge of other things (The Philosopher’s Song by Monty Python is so much more hilarious if you’ve read Hume, Hegel, and Heidegger). And I never once thought that my favorite writers or artists weren’t “original.” So I tried to be nicer to myself and not hold myself to such an arbitrary standard–although I do continue to remind myself that even Shakespeare remixed Ovid from time to time.

Plus, it kind of makes creating art easier in general for me. The stakes aren’t as high if I let myself just play with remixing my favorite things. I just finished a short story I started in grad school–at one point, there was a version of this story that was 50 pages long. I hated it so much, but I also have this weird fairy tale thinking that, if I can just fix this story enough to get it published in a professional market, then I’ll start gaining creative momentum. I revised it to 7500 words and was pretty happy with it. It made it through the second round at Clarkesworld a couple weeks ago, but was rejected. And even though it wasn’t a yes, I realized I was close. And it gave me the boost to go back and revise it one last time.

I finally just allowed myself to pour all of the things I love into that story: cyborgs, Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill, nostalgia for physical objects, filmmaking, bullet trains, the epistolary form, Johnny Cash, and complicated parental relationships. It is a tight 5000 words now, and I fucking love that story–I know in my bones that it’s good. And I have faith it’s going to get picked up by a professional market–it might take some time and that’s okay. But it’s only good because I gave myself permission to tell the kind of story I wanted to tell–which ultimately was an exercise in remixing.

And I realized that, for me, remixing is an act of love.

And love requires openness. Because being open is the mechanism for experimentation. But I won’t know what to experiment with if I don’t open myself up to love anything.

There’s nothing like finding something to love. Full throttle, rocketship fuel kind of love.

fringetattoo

This is my white tulip tattoo inspired by the Fringe episode, titled (surprise!): White Tulip.

I love a lot of things, but I have never really been driven to make fan art–aside from my forays into Labyrinth fan fiction back when I was 15 and Geocities was a thing. Fringe was that thing for me. I love that show with a fiery passion of a thousand suns. I love it so much I have one its most iconic symbols tattooed on my arm because it’s a reminder. Granted, it’s a reminder of a lot of things, like my husband and my son; and, I’ll admit, it’s also super cathartic when I think about it as a coping mechanism for flipping the bird to academia.

But it’s also a reminder that I need to be open. And that means sharing the things I love with people I love.

And I want to tell stories that are going to make people want to do the same thing: create stuff, share stuff.

And that’s where the writer part of me meets the witchy part: I need to love things with a wild fucking abandon.

Or else I’m not going to survive

H/T: to my friend Ish–this post was originally an email written to him and he suggested I post it here.