“Infinite Jest” and Inspiration

I finished reading “Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace a few weeks ago and have been sitting and digesting it for a bit.  I know that millions of words have probably been written about this particular book and I’m not going to add much to the conversation there, instead I want to examine how it inspired me in a weird way.

First off, quick thoughts on the book.  I really liked it, it was a good mix of subverting the standard genre conventions of literature while not going too far with it.  If you like literature and haven’t read this book I would recommend it.  I think it has something to offer on that front.

Now when it comes to books and book reviews I tend to stray away from the more in depth classic literary review.  When I read I always come away with the story over the style of a book, except in rare cases.  The story is what kept me drawn in to this particular book, and it’s a simple enough story.  Basically following a few characters with intertwining lives as they cope with addiction and struggle to survive.

There is a lot more to it and I’m not going to do it justice here.  I’m going to jump right to what I really took away from this book and why that is odd.  The book inspired me to actually make an attempt at film making.  That’s odd because the book is not really about that.  Sure there is a character who is a director, but it’s not one of the central themes of the book. At least not the art of film making.

The character that is a director makes obscure art films and slowly gains a bit of fame as a director before he kills himself.  What inspired me though was the fact that he did it later in life, worked with no recognition and didn’t seem to care if his projects were popular, it was about the art for him.  That inspired me to actually get started at something I’ve always kind of wanted to do, and not care about people watching what I make but care more about the actual art, the actual message.

I was standing on the subway, having a bad morning, hadn’t even started reading the book when it hit me.  An idea for a short film with some narration, a poem with clips in the back ground.  I batted the idea away as just a silly thought, and started talking myself out of it.

I told myself that I know nothing about film, that I know nothing about editing, that no one would watch it, that it was a waste of time. This is something I do with a lot of ideas that pop into my head, but this time it was different, this time I actually decided to say ‘fuck it, who cares’.

Part of the reason for this is that character in “Infinite Jest”, his attitude toward film making and just making art with no cares about distribution.  That character inspired me to just go ahead with my plan.  Slowly it grew in my head and next thing I knew I was plotting out a YouTube channel, writing short scripts and buying film making gear.

A character in a book inspired me to actually try one of the crazy ideas I have.  That’s why I want to bring it up.

It’s also inspired me to stop caring, and stop discounting my work when no one ends up seeing it. I always write things off as a failure just because they don’t gain traction or a following.  Then I give up.  I feel that I made something good, then no one reads it, or watches it, or buys it, which causes me to go from thinking I made something good to thinking what I made was trash.

This causes me to feel all that I create is no good and that no one will see it any way.  These negative thoughts add up until I get really depressed and that usually leads to me giving up.  I feel that I’m no good and I quit.  Most of the time, when I get feedback it’s generally positive, yet all I see is that no one is interested in my art.

The problem with giving up on creating is that I need to create.  I start to fall apart when I don’t pursue the creation of art.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve ‘quit’ writing because I’m no good at it.  The number of creative endeavors I’ve given up on due to this cycle of negative thinking.  I always end up starting again, telling myself it will be different, then I ‘fail’ again and quit again and get depressed again.

“Infinite Jest” inspired me to keep creating and to not be so self-conscious about what I create. It inspired me to create even if you never find an audience. It inspired me to create even if people hate my work.  It inspired me to start working on my art again. That is in addition to it inspiring me to pick up a camera and start filming.

Now I’m feeling committed, I’m feeling like I have a purpose, like I have meaning.  I have my art to keep me going. I have the act of creation to inspire me. I learned that finding an audience is secondary, it will probably never happen, but since I can’t live without creating I must create for no one.  It taught me that it’s okay to create for yourself, and that sometimes it might be better to create just for yourself. “Infinite Jest” helped me stop caring so much, in a weird way.

Even the other day, I was finding myself discouraged. I was staring at my YouTube channel analytics, seeing lots of zero view counts and getting down on myself.  Then I looked at my blog stats and saw zero views here as well, I don’t have to look at my book sales to know those are zero as well.  I found myself falling into that cycle again, found myself struggling to find the point of it all.

What pulled me back out was remembering that I’m not creating for anyone, that none of it matters and that the only way I can truly fail is to quit.  I remembered that character toiling away, knowing that no one would see what he made.  It was enough to pull me back.  Enough to remind me that it does not matter, that creation is not a job, it is the only way I can manage to live.

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