“That awful little man on your shoulder”

by darribas

One of my very favourite Brooklyn-based producers, Matt Shadetek, wrote this post about creativity and the fears our society, starting by ourselves, imposes to be truly creative. I recommend a full read of it because it’s spotted with very compelling thoughts and honest acknowledgements about his experience in releasing personal music. This one, particularly, made me feel  identified:

(…) The problem for me is that fear, especially in releasing an instrumental which I produced alone, with no collaborating producers or vocalists, that in doing so there is nothing to hide behind and people will not just judge my music but they will judge me. (…)

I’m nothing like a musician or an artist, but I’ve always liked the idea of being a PhD student as something not that far: art or not, research is a creative activity and, whether or not the results are as enoyable or useful as those from Shadetek, for instance, there are several similarities in the processes of creating songs and academic papers.

I am about to hand in the first final draft of my dissertation, and these days the following question starts popping up in conversations more often: “Oh, that’s cool you are finishing your dissertation, what is it about?” I’ve always had a very hard time answering it. And it’s not because the dissertation topic (cities and their spatial structure) is hard to explain to a non-expert on the field; although there might be some of it, I think most of the trouble relates to Shadetek’s point: it’s the fear of people thinking what I do is not relevant, useful or creative enough, of people going beyond and not judging my work but judging me that usually takes me to the easy way of “I don’t wanna bore you now, I’ll tell you other day if you’re interested”. As he greatly gets it in the article, it’s that “awful little man on your shoulder muttering: ‘You’re no good. This sucks. They’re all going to laugh at you’”.

For those not that interested so much in my PhD’s suffering, I’ve also got a paragraph for you. I think in the end, whether it’s a song, a dissertation or your love for 1950’s icelandic folk music, what makes them scaring is that they are all things that relate to our very inner self and, by exposing them to others we feel somehow naked, afraid of  being neglected because we are in a way different or particular, and it’s in our human condition to seek for belonging and social acceptance. Once I heard that “shyness is the desire to please and the fear not to success on it”. At least for myself, that’s the little man on my shoulder.