January 16, 2024

I’ve been stuck inside for a handful of days thanks to near-subzero temperatures outside, so now’s as good of a time as any to do some writing.

I had an interesting conversation recently about the end goals of creative work, a thought that’s been on my mind for several months as I’ve been putting together this website and trying to kick my brain into gear for other artistic pursuits. I feel the need to flesh out my ideas on this topic and explore what motivates me, try to seek out the meaning (if any) behind my efforts.

What exactly do I want out of the experience of writing, practicing music, game design, coding, video editing, learning to make pixel art or discovering new forms of self-expression? It’s a question that only I can answer, a response that likely differs depending on who you ask. Some people do it for fun or personal enrichment, others seek social validation, the lucky few can make a career out of it if they’ve been deemed by society to be qualified enough.

I’m not exactly made of money, so a reality where I was paid to work on creative pursuits would be dream come true for me at this point in my life. The reality is that I don’t see myself as skilled enough at one specific thing to reach this apex; I’ve generally enjoyed doing this type of work in the past, in school or otherwise, but I fear that I’ve lost the work ethic to reach that point. Talking to people who’ve done graphic design, journalism, art school, et cetera, it’s clear to me that not only do I not have the drive to make it through the slog of professional training, the process would destroy my passion for the specific aspect of creativity that I’d be focusing on.

On top of this, the modern economy continues to devalue creative work in favor of AI and machine output. The IMF recently estimated that 60% of jobs in advanced economies will be impacted by AI as the technology continues to be adopted by the mega-corporations that act as the puppet masters of society. Artistic design and writing skills are already being superseded by these generative bots that have been trained using the work of underpaid creatives. Why should I put in the effort now to learn a skill that will become obsolete within five or ten years?

I have little faith that this hypercapitalist pocket of the world will magically change its tune and provide even bare minimum social services like universal basic income or reliable socialized healthcare. Whatever ends up happening, I’m expecting to face a future of economic decline. The climate will eventually degrade to the point of unsustainable living conditions. National politics are slowly tipping the scales toward fascist rule. This is all to say that I need to make the most of the moment that I’m in right now; the dark future we face may not be conducive to the flourishing of creative people, paid or not.

Trying to pull myself out of the muck and get back somewhat more on-topic here, I can all but rule out making a sustainable living on creativity, or bare minimum shouldn't expect it. So, I’m left with seeking personal enrichment and social validation for the time being.

It’s true that I receive some dopamine hits when people give me positive feedback on what I’ve put out on the internet. I’m enjoying posting my dumb jokes and hobby tidbits over on Mastodon, and I’m hoping that space continues to grow in 2024 and beyond. In the past, I was genuinely thrilled to witness tens of thousands of people watching my YouTube videos and posting encouraging comments.

Buried deep in my psyche is the belief that growth is the victory condition for creativity, but is that actually the healthy way to look at it? Does a creative work have more merit when the numbers attached to it are higher than something else? What makes me enjoy things that relatively few others appreciate, or have a distaste for things that have mass appeal? What is it about making things that gives me enjoyment to begin with?

I hope I can discover a more salient truth about what creativity means to me in 2024. It’s a complicated subject that I don’t think I have the best grasp on right now. Even with all of these thoughts laid bare, I feel like I’m still only scratching the surface on this subject. I need to read more, talk to more people and do some soul searching, but I also need to just grind away at improving my skills if only for the purpose of becoming a more well-rounded individual. Maybe the meaning will come through the process, rather than constantly imagining what the outcome will be like.