A funny thing about people, myself included, is that many of them want to be remembered. Why we strive to remain in the minds of other people after we’re no longer around to appreciate it, I’m not sure, but I do know that I want the idea of me to stick around.
Recently, I’ve figured out a way to do it. Several artists (okay, one band and a Youtuber, but I’m counting it) make the claim that making creative work is one way we establish ourselves in the world and possibly history. By creating something, you infuse it with your thoughts, your beliefs, you aesthetic-basically, you put yourself into it, and that self will remain as long as the creation does. And if you create something great, people will want to preserve it, to keep experiencing it, and that piece of you, far into the future. So if you make good art, you defeat death, pretty much.
I’m not sure how good any of it is, but I’ve certainly spent a lot of time making things. I’ve been churning out these blog posts for months now, and I’m constantly sending essays, articles, poems, and tweets out into the word. I’m dropping little breadcrumbs of myself all over the place, and maybe one of them will prove to last. It would seem like I am making progress toward being remembered.
So why don’t I feel like I’m accomplishing anything? Each piece of myself that I package and release into the world leaves me feeling completely unchanged. Shouldn’t they give me some relief, however small, to my anxiety that I’ll be forgotten? Shouldn’t I feel like I’m increasing my odds at leaving a mark each time I write something?
Part of me wants to take this lack of feeling as a sign that I’ll never achieve my goal. If these small pieces of myself don’t feel permanent, maybe I don’t have it in me to make the masterpiece that becomes my legacy. And if nothing I make remains behind to announce my presence to posterity, should I accept failure now and give up?
The other part of me has started to think that perhaps this dissatisfaction is not failure, that it might be a sign of success. Perhaps this constant need to create, never pausing long after one project before beginning the next, never feeling like you’re done putting yourself into a work, is what it means to be creative (or maybe just be human). Maybe creating is more important than what is created. I can keep an eye toward the future, sure, but maybe I need to embrace the process I’m going through now. After all, unlike people thinking about me 1000 years from now, this is the part I get to experience.