Why I do what I do

Do you always know why you do what you do? I don’t. If you’d asked me why I draw or paint or write, until a week ago, I wouldn’t have had an answer. Today, at least one possible answer just occurred to me: To be where I want to be.

In rediscovering Hannibal, I’ve rediscovered something else that I haven’t experienced in a while, since the days of the Internet: I want to concern myself with the things that interest me. Reading a book is nice, but too passive. I want to talk. I want to see. I want to hear. And if that’s not possible, I need to create. Not just a drawing or a painting. I want to create the place, the setting, the situation that exists in my head, without anyone telling me I can’t go there right now.

Now for all my life, for most people around me, when I wanted to talk and to see and to hear about the things that concerned me (Hannibal, Middle-earth, Bayer Leverkusen, Richard III), the natural reaction was for the other person’s eyes to go blank and stare fixedly ahead. Or to change the topic. Or to simply leave the room mid-sentence, leaving me standing there and talking to myself until I realised they weren’t coming back. If I play possum, I’m sure she’ll just go away.

That hurt. I had forgotten how much.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I can understand that a mother can think of more interesting things to talk about with her thirteen-year-old girl who desperately wishes to discuss whether Rome broke the Lutatius treaty of 241, or Hannibal broke the Ebro treaty of 226.  And if even my mother couldn’t bring herself to fake interest in that, I shouldn’t have harboured any illusions that my friends would appreciate having the battle of Cannae drawn into the sand at a park and explained Hannibal’s strategic genius, when they really wanted to talk about how cute that boy was or how much of a slut that girl was or whether peppermint Rolo tasted better than caramel fudge.

When I was fourteen or so, I realised that, and stopped bothering others with my worlds, instead creating them for myself, on the paper, where I wouldn’t get on anyone’s nerves. When I showed my creations to my parents, that would give me a precious thirty seconds to share these worlds with them, or, at least, just to talk about my skill.

With Tolkien, or Heroes, or Song of Ice and Fire, I can now go on the Internet and discuss Balrogs’ wings and Jon Snow’s parentage to my heart’s content. Before the Internet, I couldn’t. And even with the Internet, with some of my more nerdy obsessions, I still can’t.

So back then, and today, I make art. If I show it to somebody, that’ll give me a few seconds of talking about the topic.

Weird how such a little effect warrants so much effort.

6 thoughts on “Why I do what I do

  1. Which is why I’m so grateful for the opportunities like this the internet gives us – I spent so long thinking I was the only person in my world, and now I’ve found other people who live in our minds like this.

  2. I know the feeling: I have a dear friend, whom I shared Karl May with when we were in 5th and 6th grade, but then we lost track of each other for some time – right when I started reading Tolkien … Oh, the discussions we missed had we discovered Middle-Earth together. But I had to wait until finally the internet “arrived” at my family’s home.

    The following three years, I was “submerged” in the German LotR-online forum, hosted by Cirdan/Stefan Servos, until I finally realized that hanging round with real people in real places is so much better. Luckily, I found friends in the pen-&-paper RPG community, another interest that I discovered surfing the internet.

    Since then, I got no problems to talke to other people about imaginary worlds, characters, and nerddom (at large, covering movies, TV shows, music etc.). And best of all: Our worlds are the same, as we experience them together, playing RPG. :-)


    PS.: Great article! :-)

  3. But that’s the thing about obsessions (or passions, if you will): the effort is probably part of the effect. The time that you spend immersed in your passion,say, imaging the scenario, then planning and creating an illustration, must bring a degree of satisfaction, if not actual joy, even before you show anyone.

    And there’s another question – do you create because, through a combination of aptitude and application, you have the ability to immerse yourself more thoroughly in your passions (and a neat way of presenting them to others), or do you create because you are inspired by certain things, and if so, is it the ability to inspire you which determines what you will become passionate about? And, if the former (if I am reading your first paragraphs correctly), what was it about them that grabbed you?

  4. I know I was privileged to grow up with a brother (12 years older than myself) who never put me down, when I wanted to talk about ancient history or the interesting etymological coherencies I had discovered lately between some random words in German and English. But of course I know this feeling very well, you describe in your diverting lines, Jenny. I didn´t have your choice though, due to a lack of talent for painting. So I let my friends smile at my interests and decided not to care about. And began to write instead. Growing up, this strategy worked better day by day. I even found friends I could share my passion for history and classical music with. At least with most of them. Real buddies I could meet every day, and not friends via internet and social networks. (Which didn´t exist in those days.) I was lucky. Until the end of my time in school, I wrote little stories about my favourite heroes of history or small essays just for fun and out of interest. Essays, which even delivered me later on material for some papers at the university.
    I did not get approval for my texts, because normally I didn´t show them to anyone, but I understand very well how much your drawings must have meant to you. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.

  5. Thanks, Jenny. I’m glad to hear you’re normal, or normal in the same odd way as some of the rest of us. Your Hannibal and Silmarillion paintings are not just an occasion for discussion but are themselves part of the discussion.

    Are you familiar with Kevin Rolly’s work http://kevissimo.deviantart.com/ ? Through rather different media he does similar things with biblical scenes, especialy from the book of Judges, which is a hideous story, beautifully told.

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