Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Pain and Guilt of Making Art

by Aaron Mystery

There are two types of egocentric people in this world: Those who think they are perfect and at the center of existence, and those who are so obsessed with their own flaws and ineffectiveness that all they can think about is themselves. I am the latter, failed at more things than many will ever attempt, but it is in my most subtle of successes that I find the most guilt.

There are two areas in my life where I have had moderate success: One is a personal matter I don't share with the world as Aaron Mystery, and the other is Suckermouth, that ridiculous little cartoon website dedicated to transformation fantasy. The reward is still small compared to the time invested, but I'm grateful for it. I wonder if I deserve it?

I'm constantly tortured by what I'm not getting done, what's not rendering on my computer, what I'm not writing, or voicing, or playing. A hopeless romantic who surrendered his soul to be successful at something he never wanted to do.

To sell one's soul to the proverbial Devil is just as Hollywood portrays it: It is forever and a bum deal. Thus, where a boy once wrote love letters to a girl that said she loved him back, a man now feels his heart burn with the guilt of not getting enough adult cartoons made for his website this month. To the opposite sex (and much of the male gender, it should be said), my cartoons are filth at best, trash at worst.

And it is true, I have never claimed to be anything but a hack. But I do have a passion for both animation and transformation fantasy. I have more of a passion for money. Good cartoons make happy customers and happy customers continue to subscribe. Sexy cartoons create new customers, and new customers account for half my revenue. Money earned this way - even a little - helps me to forget what I don't want to remember.

Once, all I cared about was making music. All I wanted was to play guitar and sing. Hours a day, year after year, album after album - I was worse than a hack. I was unsuccessful and not very good at it. My lot in life was to be rejected by others, chiefly because I had little to offer that was exceptional or worth taking note of.

There is a period in my life between the band and the website that taught me emotion is forever, that pain can never be forgotten. To this day (last night, for example), I still have terrible nightmares and dreams of false and unwanted hope spawned by my brush with "Love," a despicable tyrant more vindictive and powerful than any god or devil.

I discovered that the depths of the human condition are arrived at in the realm of dreams. I am tortured by them, yet I crave them. Being no creative genius, my dreams give me insight into the real artist that lies within me. Just glimpses of unbound creativity and wonderful stories.

Yet when I pull these phantasms out into the light of day, into the waking hours, they gain too much power, too much influence, and I must retreat to the domain of sleep and hope they come back there instead. If I were lucky, I would dream about nothing at all. Because a dream remembered is an event experienced, our emotions will never sort it out completely.

To overcome this vicious cycle that nearly destroyed my life, I had to accept that I was Ace the Zombie, that I was not human, but in fact a ghoul walking among the living that should never expect to enjoy the things humans do. I would continue to consume art and knowledge, but not love and companionship. I must become a servant. A servant to anything but Love, the tyrant that has shattered a billion hearts, and claimed the lives of almost as many.

At first, Ace was a stage prop, then he was a character in a novella, then a face on an album cover, until finally he became a cartoon icon and the Patron Saint of Breast Expansion: He is Ace the Zombie. Somewhat unwilling and resentful servant to the Devil, Ace is the embodiment of mindless and pointless entertainment, the epitome of control and cheap applause. Ace believes you cater to your followers and spite the world for rejecting you in the first place - no matter what you would have done, these people of the world would have scorned or ignored you to the very end, anyhow. Your followers deserve your dedication - and they like it pure.

But as a jester in the courts of hell, Ace believes he is in control of his emotions. He is a clown, yes, but if the cheers and coinage can simply keep raining down from the audience, he can block everything else out of his mind. He can forget his past. Forget dead pets and missed opportunities and love lost and the joy of being alive.

And since I became Ace the Zombie to survive, I can tell you he is wrong. Yes, success will temporarily forestall the pangs of remembering the past, put eventually, the past pushes back.

Ace now sits in his tomb, miserable, because he can't think of the next joke to tell the Devil. They used to roll off the tongue. Puppet shows, dances, pantomime: Ace could not help himself. However, if Ace were to try to rise above the role of court jester and talk of romance or music, the Devil would cast him out, and then who would watch Ace dance?

So as the guilt of unrealized cartoons and an idle computer eat away at me like horned worms on a tomato plant, I realize that the Devil doesn't play fair. Instead of getting rid of nightmares and regret, I've only added a suffocating layer of guilt brought on by obligations not to others, but to myself. I'm the one that needs the animations coming, the computer whirring away, the pencil scribbling the next script - I'm the Devil Ace dances for! I need the distraction, you simple little fool! Don't stop dancing!

Self-loathing was never so much at home (or so incestuous).

To Ace, I say this: Guilt will never bring you happiness, but happiness will rarely bring you guilt. You are among the walking dead, and all the dancing in the world can't change that.

To the Devil: You chose to be cast down to Hell by behaving like a monster. You are the other guy, and all the control in Hell can't change that.

To myself: Your computer has been idle since 6 this morning and the guilt is giving you a headache. Get to work!

[Update: Almost immediately after I posted this blog, my Twitter thumb - which had been a pic of yours truly - AUTOMATICALLY reverted back to the Satan thumb I used for a day months ago! One of the freakiest coincidences of my life, but this is a weekend when nothing excites or inspires me, so it was all for naught.]

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