An Ode to the Selfish Creator

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In our last discussion on the importance of endings, I said something that I’ve said many times before: I am a selfish and self-indulgent writer. I don’t think that on its own is negative on its own but before I continue on with my thesis on the praises of the selfish creator, I want to talk about what I mean when I say that and then when it can fail us.
When I say a writer is self-indulgent or selfish, I mean that they do as they wish. Maki Murakami in writing Gravitation comes to mind. She wrote the series as she wanted and didn’t care about basic things like plot structure or continuity or canon. If she wanted to treat a character terribly for several chapters for no apparent reason, she did. If she wanted a robot panda fight sequence, she got one. The thing was, people read it. Well, I read it. And while sure, I like most people, did struggle with her dips in and out of logic I was always inspired by her willingness to do what she wanted as a creator and even though this was a widely syndicated manga, she basically got away with literary murder.
In a statement on why I write, I say that I write for revenge. My words are a spell. Oftentimes I am writing to right a wrong. Character I like doesn’t get enough screen time? There’s a fanfiction for that. Not satisfied with the way a pairing shakes out? There’s fanart for that. Unhappy with a series’ ending? Keep the story going. One of the longest running stories I have going is purely to spite Jo Rowling and her apparent hatred of Slytherins.
But I am not famous (yet) and while my occasional conflama post online may get some traction, I’m far from someone who does this for a living. One of the biggest reasons I’ve been so stingy on publishing my fiction recently (I had no qualms about it when I was younger and thankfully, those places on the internet no longer exist) and I’m acutely aware that if I were to return to posting fiction, I’d likely be more considerate about how and what I post. I keep a regular schedule here because I know it’s what you all, my lovely readers, expect of me.
And sometimes that’s hard to do. But I feel like I owe you all, my fair readers, a regular schedule. But I am selfish in other regards as I’m sure you’ve noticed by the months heavy in discussions of framing or the occasional rant about feminism. And because I do still feel beheld to an audience, there are things I still temper and keep quiet on.
Which is where I’ll pause to talk about when being a selfish creator is less than ideal. I’ve ranted enough about Sister Claire but it’s a good place to begin. You can see where the creators are now just sort of writing whatever they’d like and it feels less and less like a narrative story and more like the create-your-own- lesbian adventure they really wanted to write. And webcomics may be one of the mediums where you can be the most self-indulgent, as a reader unless you are a patron, you can sort of just bail.
But that doesn’t mean that you should.
Remember that long standing grudge I have against Jo Rowling? She’s sort of the self-indulgent creator’s patron saint. Her prose is full of moments where you can practically see her oozing over her own brilliance. And I roll my eyes at every instance of it. Because there is a time and a place to be self-indulgent…taking several words to discuss how clever a name pun is simply is not the place. And her selfishness has affected fandom. She’s quick to correct people and tell people how to read her work and while I could and have discussed plenty on death of the creator, I am annoyed any time a creator tells me how I should read a piece. I will continue to advocate for a Draco Malfoy that gets things done and a House system where not everyone is a rival except for Hufflepuffs, they can stay on the outside (I’m kidding, mostly).
And there’s no part of me that’s advocating for being a total sell-out. I can’t stand when a work gets watered down because it has to appeal to the masses. We’ve all seen television shows and books lose their edge once muggles find it. Lookin’ at you, seriously most comic book tent pole films. Watering down a work for mass appeal is frustrating. I myself has struggled with staying niche and not compromising myself and my style of writing or paneling versus trying to screech a little less about feminism and gender roles for a wider appeal. I am much happier in somewhat obscurity if it means never having to dilute what I have to say. I’m also far from saying we shouldn’t challenge creators at all. It’s about balance and knowing when and where it’s appropriate to do as you wish. Remember, we never reigned in Stephen King and now his cocaine-fueled nonsense are some of the most important parts of beloved horror stories and some would likely argue that It is somehow better with an uncomfortable sex scene and a giant world turtle (I am not making this up).
There’s something to be said about not giving a hoot; a dear friend of mine produces art for a ship that I have researched just so I can admire and appreciate her wonderful art. I’m surrounded by wonderful creators who are happy to knuckle down and make what they love but are still willing to compromise when it really does matter.

I’m happy to hear feedback and criticism and I do listen to most of those things. But then I go back and write a fluff piece about a franchise I love or go on a long-winded rant about how much I dislike the way comics are writing Jason Todd right now.

Your Narcissism Is Showing

 

“For the most part people are not curious except about themselves.” ― John Steinbeck, The Winter of Our Discontent.pngI am a creature of the Internet. I’m a social media manager by day and by night I am a community manager, podcaster, moderator, social influencer, blogger and content creator. Like a Social Media Sailor Moon I am fighting evil by moonlight and by evil I mean spam comments and Nigerian prince scams and winning love by daylight and by love I mean the likes, comments, clicks and retweets of my fans/followers. It’s a delicate balancing act of managing this for my clients and then for myself. But I wanted to talk about when your personality and your content is quantified and how that feels.

Before we dive in too deeply I wanted to discuss a word I’ll likely be using a lot in this post: narcissism. The word itself stems from a Greek myth about a man named Narcissus who was so enamored with his reflection that he literally drowned in a reflecting pool after gazing at his reflection in the still water and some strange nymph creature said “Wow, this is totes sad. I should like make this dead dude a flower instead of like bringing him back to life or anything.”. The psychological use of the word describes a series of personality traits that then can lead to a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. NPD is characterized by an inflated sense of self-worth, egoism and immense self-preservation even in a negative light. The Narcissist does not care for others, only for the self. The Narcissist only sees people as a means to an end and that means is for adulation, praise and attention. When I use the word narcissism, I mean less the disorder and more the trait. It features all the same egotistical behavior as the condition but not in a pathological way. A person who is narcissistic may be annoying but they probably can’t hurt you. On the other hand someone with NPD may be more troubling and difficult to deal with.

I like most young people display a fair amount of narcissistic tendencies. A coworker casually commented on my despondency over a low number of Facebook friends and she asked rather coldly “What is the point?” to which I audibly gasped. The point? For heaven’s sake, I am a social media manager. What am I without a sizable following? And the pressure to maintain numbers is quite daunting. I was elated to reach over 2000 followers on Twitter and the fact that this humble blog here is quickly approaching 2000 views makes me happy while also puts a fair amount of stress on me. I am worried about the content I produce, I am worried about schedules and graphics and everything. I want people to see what I do since I am going through the trouble of posting it. I am not aiming to shout into the ether.

But what really got me thinking about self-worth and numbers was the release of analytics for personal accounts. Most social media platforms only allow and collect data for businesses: I’m a social media manager so I use this data for a wide variety of functions at work. I’ve never had to worry about my own analytics. Twitter was first and I did more and more to increase that number of followers, even setting goals to reach at least 1000 people per day. I beat myself up emotionally when those numbers fell and that determination led me to where I am on Twitter. Facebook then allowed a similar metric rating of your own personhood. Facebook suddenly let you see how many people were commenting, how many reactions you got and how far your content spread whether it was a brunch photo or a touching in memoriam to a lost loved one. I blog here on WordPress and I am very aware of how many people see what I post. I am due to the hardline nature of my social media role concerned with numbers but also as an image-conscious person I am enticed and drawn to pulling in bigger numbers. I have had some narcissistic personality traits for decades: I am an only child, after all. But this drive to succeed and to be seen is a hollow one.

There’s a funny trick about narcissism. A true Narcissus doesn’t actually like themselves very much. It’s all a show, it’s all a carefully planned out act. Think of the Insta-famous models and influencers. No one does this because they enjoy it. They do it because they feel like that have to. It’s exhausting to whittle down your self-worth to a series of numbers. It’s tiresome to be awoken by every alert and notification. It’s not fun to see your entire point as a person reduced down to how many clicks you get on a post.

So instead of just calling your social media concerned friend a raging Narcissus, consider the society we live in that values a woman more for her likes than her opinions. Consider that this is our making. And consider that maybe just throwing around a buzzword as a psuedo-insult doesn’t make anyone feel better: it just makes us all look a bit reductive.