Saturday, May 27, 2023

creativity and invisibility

I have lately plagued by a strange deflated feeling everytime I finish a creative project--be it poems, a collage, a video--a heaviness and ambivalent feeling, not toward the art itself, but perhaps the futility of making it. It comes and goes, but I can roll out of bed, breeze through all manner of things--chapbook designs, articles on chocolate and throw pillows and local art galleries. Housework and dance workouts and nice naps with cats.  Feeling full of creative energy, energetic and enthusiastic. Only to spend my evenings writing poems or making collages or reels with a sense of nice flow, and then afterward, a decline. Not for the work itself, but maybe what feels like the invisibility of it.  I keep stumbling across reels by creators on Instagram with small businesses, talking about how social media has suddenly made them all but invisible. In many cases, it has decimated what were once thriving businesses. It's similar to the feeling of adriftness people used to talk about circa 2010 in the etsy forums, as the marketplace swelled to untenable levels and you had to keep paying more and more to bump yourself up in the search results. 

While I don't think invisibility has affected the shop (it's so small and word of mouth anyway these days) I do feel it when it comes to traffic and general feelings of being seen--not even creative work, but ANYTHING on social media. Though while I care less about the visibility for random nonsense and memes I post on facebook. I do feel like writing and art-related things sit with no views or engagement.  And yet, I know that I very happily once made poems and art in the days before social media as we know it. Somehow people saw them and liked them or hated them. Or maybe they didn't, but I felt much more satisfied and less angsty about it.

I've always been an artist and writer who embraced and grew within the online community. There was a before time, when I scribbled and banged out bad poems on a word processor and sometimes submitted to journals via snail mail and mostly was rejected. But after 2001 or so, my identity as a creative developed entirely in the virtual world. First in online journals and listservs, later in blogs and journals like this one. It all existed long before facebook (and way long before Instagram, which I did not even join until 2017). Sure I did readings, and took MFA classes, and occasionally published in print, but the center of my creative existence was still overwhelmingly online. 

And it was good for a while. I felt like people saw the fruits of my work and I saw theirs (even this feels like its harder..I see the same posts and lots of ads, but not even a 10th of the people I follow.). Now the silence that meets dumb facebook posts about pop culture or randomness, my cat photos and lunch photos, also meets creative work. Resoundingly and absolutely. And yet, my generation knows better than everyone that the internet is not the real world, and yet its hard not to feel like it is...I've noticed a disconnect going back to the pandemic, and granted, it may have had much to do with that. I felt its undertow in 2021 and 2022. I feel it more now. Or it bothers me more now.

Weirder ad-heavy algorithms, general disengagement from the internet and social media?  Who knows..but its rough and I am trying to untangle my feelings of validity from it nevertheless...