Boris Bischoff (Amsterdam, Netherlands) on the cost of perfectionism.
As you may or may not know, I’m running this magazine with the amazing
but-really-annoying Nina Klaff. We’re both studying on the side, which has made it really hard for us at times to publish with consistency. We’ve often found ourselves too preoccupied with school to think about p01nt.
This month, however, we get to work full time on it. Our school gave us the opportunity to invest all our time in our project as part of a graded community project (thanks, school, that’s dope). This means five days a week, from 10.00 until 18.00, we get to work on the magazine, creating designs, editing articles, and posting on social media. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?
And it is. But one downside is that I have to publish an article of my own. I (voluntarily) promised my supervisor to write one a week, and I have already been slacking on that. Maybe because I can’t find what I really want to write about. It’s frustrating.
To be honest, publishing my own work is something I’ve been nervous about ever since Nina and I started this magazine. I think it’s partly because I’m more comfortable with supporting other people who want to create for us and staying in the background, working on our ‘vision’. The less visible I am, the less I open myself up to judgment. Comfortable.
I knew the moment I’d have to share something myself was coming through, and I knew that when I did, it had to be good. It would have to be better than most of what we had published so far, because it’s my job to set the bar. And it had to be high. But see, that’s what’s killing it for me. That’s what always kills it for me: I put the bar so damn high for myself, judge myself so harshly before anyone else gets the chance, before I have even started creating, and it prevents me from even allowing myself to create.
Before I’ve even got anything down, I’ll start questioning the necessity of my work. Are my words even going to be helpful to someone else? Isn’t it arrogant to think that what comes out of my mouth (read: keyboard) is going to be more interesting than what other people have to say? Who do I think I am?
The fear of being arrogant, of putting yourself on a pedestal and saying, ‘Hey y’all, I’m worth your attention. Listen to me’, is something that kills my drive to create.
In my surroundings, I see the people close to me doing a similar thing. I have lots of ambitious and creative friends who dream in secret of putting their ideas out there, of doing something they think is cool. Often they don’t because they’re too scared, too self-critical, and too perfectionistic.
I think that’s such a shame. The whole commercialization of creativity has made it so scary for ‘normal’ people, those who aren’t already instantly successful artists and creators, to just share something that they made, to be openly creative without fearing inferiority and thinking their work isn’t good enough.
I am disappointed that I feel unable to practice what I preach, because I have this incapacitating fear too. We want our contributors and readers to feel comfortable sharing their work, we try and curate a safe environment for them, and then I don’t give myself that same liberty. It’s weird.
This week, I went to look at the notes of ideas for the magazine I had made for my first article, from back when we started almost half a year ago, just to see if I could execute any of them. We had a break between the end of March and June, and in that time, I realized things had changed. Looking at those ideas, they are all so damn serious. I was in a totally different stage of my life, and a completely different energy came through. Back then, I was more serious, I suppose.
The truth is, a couple of months after Nina and I started with the magazine, I got sad. I got down. I was angry, moody and antisocial, and this was for quite some time. I didn’t keep up with my friends. I felt unmotivated, tired, and either very sad or very angry. I acted out, and my girlfriend bore the brunt of it (I’m still sorry.) Long story short: I wasn’t doing well. Those around me started to notice.
This was also one of the reasons I couldn’t keep up with the workload of p01nt while studying at the same time. At some p01nt (hehe), I could barely even get my schoolwork done. Even the simplest of chores like doing my dishes, washing my clothes, or cooking for myself felt like a burden.
I started seeing a therapist last year, and she was there for me during this period too. I think it helped. I took steps like seeing my friends more and taking antidepressants, which I definitely think helped stabilize my mood.
A lot of people are wary of pills. I catch myself feeling ashamed when I say I’m taking antidepressants. But I’m trying to avoid being negative about it. Yes, it might be true that right now, without those pills I would find it impossible to keep my shit together. They’re helping me for now, but perhaps later I won’t need them as much. All I know is that my head feels more peaceful right now, and that’s a relief.
The funny thing is that now that things feel brighter, I don’t feel like being serious anymore. I don’t want to write some kind of deep emotional article about my relationship with my family, or about my issues with masculinity, ideas I found in my old notes.
No. I just want to have fun. This vibe of randomness keeps rushing over me. It’s a weird desire to address the weird, the unpredictable, the bizarre, and the eccentrically creative. I just want to waste people’s time online (which is kind of what I’m trying to do with this article, if you hadn’t noticed yet). I want to be inconsistent, meta, and in general, confusing. I feel like I’ve found what creativity is about for me in the end: doing the unexpected. As you might in comedy. I’m talking Monty Python, Rick and Morty, Tyler the Creator, Eric Andre, Nina Klaff. Do they ring a bell?
I’ve got my sense of humour back.
The designs I’ve been doing for this website have definitely been helping me guide my creativity in that direction. A text gets put in front of me, and I have to create an image that relates to it and that looks sick. I’ve been inspired to make random, weird, and psychedelic designs. I’m still stuck with my writing.
With p01nt, I wanted to provide a platform for honest, open creativity from all kinds of people. Especially from people who aren’t used to sharing their work. I can see the irony of being stuck on my own article out of a fear of failing. That’s just because I’m no different from anyone else. I’ve just started doing something and keep hoping it’s somehow valuable to others.
Just like that, by sharing my thoughts on not being able to write an article, I wrote an article. I wrote about being stuck, reflected on that process, let loose a stream of thought that was already there. And now you’re reading it.
My point is: I want you to do the same. To anyone out there who wants to create but doesn’t know where to start, just try it out. Just make something. It doesn’t need to be perfect right away. I’m here to listen, and I’m pretty sure that others are too.