|the soapbox @ benturner.com|
"Finding Myself", an Essay
I'm going to make a concerted effort to shorten the length of my Soapboxes. It'll be interesting to see how long this lasts.
A lot has happened to my web site recently. I got the Project Cool cool site of the day award last week. I used to visit Cool Site of the Day fairly often, and then Project Cool when it opened. I set as a small transitional goal to get one of those awards. Well, okay, it's a year later, but I finally got it.
I didn't really get that many e-mails that day, even though I sure as Hell have gotten a lot of page requests recently. Every single one of them wrote to say I did a good job. It was surprising that I had no negative e-mails -- with my pomposity and jackassitude, I'd have figured at least a few of them. I had one person disagree with the Apple Elitism Soapbox, but we corresponded on very amicable terms.
Fair enough. The rest weren't interested, or just check out front pages of sites, or they were so turned off that they left. But I'm happy that most of all, I've received positive attention.
I couldn't be more fucking frustrated with my work than I am now. I don't think I've ever felt so questioning and retrospective of my style, writing personality, and technique over such a long period as I do now. This has nothing to do with writer's block, which I have experienced in the past -- this time I just see large fissures in my work that reach all the way down to the foundation. I have plenty to talk about, and not enough time to write about it in. That's not a problem. I'm just finding my own thought process twisted and torrid, impossible to read and full of major logic gaps and unnecessary filler text.
I am not a good writer.
It's a fucking insult to the writers who are good writers to have me included with them. If you're reading a beautiful essay or story, you don't even remember that you're reading it. It flows along effortlessly, caressing magnificent imagery into your mind, bridging the connections necessary for you to understand what you are reading before you have a chance to think about it. Good writing makes sense. Good writing inspires. Good writing respects the reader. Good writing is exceedingly rare. Good writing is something that eludes me.
Many of my friends who actually think about the stuff I write about usually have critical points to bring my way to defuse my arguments. My brother, who can turn my arguments from proud, arrogant displays of how it is, into gelatinous piles of babbly rhetoric and naive appraisals, does the same. My parents, who are fonts of knowledge, have to overlook gaping holes in my Soapboxes just to say something good about them, for my own self-esteem and all, I'm sure.
Poetry I have written is shredded apart, rants and counterarguments I post on the 'Net are dissected and thrown out as wandering, unfocused exercises in how not to write. Miscommunication is a common theme for criticisms of my work. Ambiguity, ignorance, incorrect conclusions. The works.
Am I that incoherent? Am I that incompetent that I can't form a strong argument without weakening it with related issues?
And don't think I don't realize this myself. No one understands this any goddamn more than I do. I know my essays are long, drawn-out, arrogant, misled, and mish-mashed. I know what constitutes good writing and bad writing. I can differentiate between what is relevant to an argument and what isn't. I cannot seem to translate it over into my actual writing, though. Strangely enough, this is the same for me with interfaces. I know exactly what makes a computer game or software interface efficient, successful, and not confusing, but I have trouble thinking about an original concept of mine which incorporates such good UI. I don't really need people to criticize me anymore -- I've come to accept these criticisms as valid.
I am not a good web designer.
I love the way my site looks. As a whole, I couldn't be happier with it. It took me about three years to reach that state of satisfaction. Am I that slow? Three year production times are not good.
I don't create unique designs or groundbreaking pseudo-art. So if you're an employer poring over my site looking for the right replacement web designer, I may not be the one you want. I heard that someone said my work (contract work which you haven't seen) all looks the same -- it needs more variety. The graphics and layout aren't drop-dead gorgeous -- the designs aren't unique. The functional aspect isn't even 100% intuitive. There are so many overwhelming examples of how I am not one who should be commended for work well done. It takes a special something, an artistic talent, to create sites which look (and again I use this word) effortless, which look slick and professional. I mean, I can look at any site on the Web and tell you exactly how it's done, deconstructing it, but it's much harder to put together from scratch, from one's own imagination. Perhaps I have no imagination. Perhaps I have no creativity. I seem to be more a product of the input given to me than someone who makes the large jump from emulation to uniqueness.
I have little print and graphics background. Certainly no formal classes. I reposition pixels for the most part, not create them. I look at some sites and try to borrow from their styles, but it does not work very well. Fuck me.
Do you have any fucking idea how frustrating this is? I mean, anyone can borrow from others' ideas, but it takes a special person to sacrifice his work to the creative pools of minds everywhere. What I would like more than anything else is to create designs or projects which everyone respects...which rock the medium...which further another aspect of the technology for future people to pick up on in their work.
But that's not who I am. I am a person who knows what he wants but doesn't know how to get it. I steal, I copy, I cheat, I hide, I manipulate. I know I will reach a higher level of skill when I grow older, but for so long have I toiled in getting there. I have a big hump to get over and I want it to come soon.
I am not intelligent.
I stand here up high in my tower, raining down cascading opinions of how things should be, why this works and that doesn't, who knows their shit and who doesn't. You'd think from reading this site, and the Soapbox, that I think I'm God's gift to man. The truth is, I know virtually nothing. A lot of which has ever accumulated in my mind has been forgotten. I've received a basic cookie-cutter education because I'm not as proactive as the truly intelligent people are. The people I run into contact with are phenomenal -- I have the utmost respect for them. Internet, classics department, professors, parents, friends. My girlfriend's amazing. Her appetite for books will never be satiated. These people go after knowledge -- I am more passive in my education.
Have a conversation with me and you can tell I have a lot to learn, and a lot to experience. I have a confined world which has only begun to widen, and I feel I've learned a lot from that. But that's just a start. I come from a family of highly intelligent people -- I'm just a young upstart, perhaps a victim of multimedia. I don't know.
I feel fettered. I know how rewarding writing can feel when everything goes well. It's a euphoric feeling and you get addicted to the rush. You get in the zone -- you can do no wrong. Words are plucked out of the air, perfectly selected and placed, yet done without effort. You have a visually intense scene in your mind and all you have to do is put it down on paper. Your writing becomes like a log of the events, a journal.
Ideally, and at some of its greatest moments, that's how it's like. Yes, it varies differently for many people, but that's the rush I remember. I believe now that I have become so encumbered by striving for technical excellence and historical accuracy that perhaps my work is suffering. What happened to just letting go and doing it? I don't know, but I want to perform at a higher level -- I want to break through.
But until that happens, I'll have to make do. For those who think they can't create an amazing web site, you can. For those who feel intimidated by people like me, don't be. All we've done is throw up facades which temporarily fulfill our souls. The truth is that the competition never ends and it's healthy not to view it that way. There's always someone out there who's better, and there's always someone who can beat you down and put you in your place.
But all I want to do is create things that make me feel, and love, and hate. I'm not satisfied that I can do that right now, so I'm gritting my teeth and waiting for this time to pass. All I can do is learn. I'm sorry if I don't impress you, and I'm sorry if I do -- I am no different, I am not unique, I deserve no praise. What I do believe I am is a hard worker -- I will persist through things until they get done. I don't quit. You may think it's absurd, but I actually met Anna after she looked up Jim Courier on the Web. Jim Courier is a tennis player with virtually none of the talent other players have, but he works his ass off. Anna and I work pretty damn hard just because we're an ocean apart.
Fuck me. Welcome to this site, a compendium of insecurity, arrogance, naivety, immaturity. I'm tired of it. Somehow I must improve, mature, excel. I'm not proud of my work. It pains me to look at it, even. It pains other people to look at it. This is a period of frustration, of realization that I'm still just a kid, unskilled and imperfect. I have a long way to go to be what I want to be.
But at least I have Anna, who loves and respects me. At least I have my family. At least I have my friends, who continue to want to be around me, for reasons I know not why. At least I'm getting a lot out of my education -- I've read too much stuff as of late on the Web saying how much a waste of time college is. Sure, if you don't take advantage of it and don't take an interesting degree plan.
If I were, say, you, I'd read this site and think I were a pompous know-nothing jerk with a textbook and spoonfed notions. I wouldn't expect anything out of the ordinary out of that introvert, the one sitting by himself, aware of the world around him but not acknowledging it, inhumanly ignoring communication with other people.
This is the mental struggle I'm going through, and even though it's not starvation, poverty, or pregnancy of girlfriend, it sure as Hell drains me of energy, strips me of confidence, leaves me unsatisfied with what I've become. This is an internal struggle, the kind that changes a man most.
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