I am digitizing my crates and crates of music, sketches, college writing assignments and handouts, all of these things the art student of 2000 needed to save and refer back to in a pinch. We couldn’t Evernote and organize in 2002, I am proud and embarrassed to date myself here. We also didn’t have the depth of blogging and communities that we have now digitally. For a creative loner like myself to get ideas out we needed a whole lot of photocopy credits and to paste it together into things called ZINES. Usually around a theme, often autobiographical; zines were handmade booklets of poetry, drawings, and ideas too raw or too obscure to pop into a copy of Newsweek.
In 2008 I started writing my first (and currently last) Zine. Not that it was a bad experience. I took the work I produced and went to Richmond Zine Fest in 09, met a great bunch of writers, screen printers, DIY anarchists. It is funny to think back now, but at the time I considered the work a massive failure because crowds of people didn’t immediately make it a best seller. From one Fest where I sold probably 10 copies to fellow zine-sters, I assumed “the public” wouldn’t consume the ideas in force and never promoted it again.
A clean black and white copy of the zine is now on my drawings page:
I screenprinted in bizzaro colors 20 or so copies of it as well. Let me repeat: I had made this thickly worded essay into a 10 screen, hand produced booklet it took me weeks and so many failed screen pulls to get all the little type to mostly come out. I assumed “the public” would purchase this as a collectors’ item.
At the time the girl I was dating who lived in DC was preparing to leave me. The pages about her parents’ judgments of my inevitable artist’s poverty weighed on me and hit me like a truck when their daughter decided to break up. It was after that I stopped painting altogether for about three years. One under-promoted zine not selling and one family’s estimation of my value had been enough for me to stop work. I was fully invested in a band at the time and worked creatively in food and music, but in both I sought immediate praise and fed my ego to heal from what I assumed was my last creative failure.
The pride I had in my art school work, in my craft and abilities in hard work was downright annoying then. I was sure I had the world by the gonads, that one record producer, one art critic, or just the rest of the world was going to catch one of my pieces and propel me to the top. Now I know that the top is just another hamster wheel of humanity’s relative experience. Like wealth, beauty, and fame, success is a crescendo of tragedy when it is all you live for.
I derived my value from my idea of success, and for the next decade my outlook on life depended on my most recent flourish of a goal achieved or lost. I am so grateful for this life and for the freedom to pursue health and beauty. With my copious copies of an old, unsold zine I can renew the brazen hope of that 25 year old boy. I hope this is a banner call to all those dreamers and creative people out there to never stop forming the new works, that the world’s value of your work is not why we do what we do. Listen to the muses in this world and give form to the things that will make our world more vibrant and complex. Love to all you warrior dreamers.