appoval

I am one of those creative types. I usually don’t self-identify as a “creative type,” but it’s easier now that I’m slowly, much to my dismay, becoming an artist. Not that I consider myself an artist. However, you can only work on so many projects, write some many things, and conceive of so many endeavors that have no direct practical value before you start to lose footing in “I’m not an artist” arguments.

I’ve accepted, for now, the nomenclature. When I meet people, and they ask about what I do, I stumble over words, start the same sentence in several different ways, and finally drop my shoulders in defeat as I sigh and say “I’m a writer” or “I’m an artist.”

This has in no way changed how I am at all. Part of me always feared that if I ever began to say this, I would be called out as a liar. Part of me expected the insecurity to go away. But it hasn’t.

You see, as a class of people, these creative types are plagued with self-doubt. They all have an “I’m not X enough.” Creative. Clever. Skilled. Talented. Inspired. Artistic. Connected. This particular insecurity is good friends with “You’re just saying that.”

My versions of “You’re just saying that” have to do with people saying things are good–especially when there’s minimal criticism otherwise. I don’t believe them. If something is good, you have more of an opinion on it than that. This is, of course, a total lie. I’ve seen plenty of things to which I just can say “I liked it” and have few words beyond that.

My insecurity with producing good work has, I say, nothing to do with the fact that I write stuff or make things. That is to say, my damage is in no way associated with me being one of those creative types. When I cook, my insecurities and normally hidden perfectionism rises to the surface.

For example!

One night I was making dinner. We were going to have tacos because tacos are delicious, easily personalized, and not a big thing unto themselves. These were, of course, vegetarian and easily veganified. I also didn’t want to go to the grocery store.

First, we made seitan. Seitan’s actually really easy to make, as it is, in its most basic form, wheat gluten and water. The flavoring is the most important part. While making it, I fretted over having kneaded it enough. That I put enough flavoring in it. That the mixture of spices and sauces would taste good.

Then, we made tortillas. We didn’t have corn meal. I frowned and noticed the chick pea flour. It wouldn’t taste quite right, but it would change the texture. I used less than a third a cup in the total of two cups flour. I mixed it up, added salt and water, and tasted.

It tasted too much like chick peas.

G reassured me that it would be fine and we turned them into little balls that I flattened with a rolling pin. Then I worried that they were too thin. Then they were too thick. Then they were not cooked enough. Cooked too much. G eventually ate one and reassured me that they tasted fine.

Of course, I didn’t believe him.

“This is what you always do,” he told me, in reference to being overly worrisome about people enjoying their experiences. The experiences I am somehow responsible for. “It always turns out fine.”

The seitan, once cooked, was rather tasteless. I cooked it up in a pan with more flavoring ingredients and, in not trusting myself, proceeded to coerce everyone available into trying it. They all said it was fine.

I chalked it up to everyone being hungry.

When we were all at the table, I, jokingly, admitted that I really just want to hear them say it’s good. After I realized how it sounded, I stumbled over words trying to express that I only want to hear that if it’s true. I don’t want them paying lipservice.

Of course, they all say it’s good.

Of course, I still don’t believe them.

I find myself eventually accepting that maybe, just maybe, they’re enjoying dinner when there are no left overs.

This is more or less how I am with everything I make. I down play what it is. I down play the work that went into it. I down play my own involvement in the good parts and play up my involvement in the bad parts. I do this with my creative works, and I don’t believe any simple “It’s good” unless there’s negative, or constructive, criticism accompanying it.

If someone had told me dinner was good, but the seitan was lacking some flavor, or the chickpea flour was overbearing, I’d believe them much more than if they simply said it was good. In truth, I’m looking for acknowledgement of the experience. I want to know someone took a critical eye to what I produced and then reached conclusions about it.

This is why I love analytics.

Analytics fulfill a desire for recognition. Rather than looking to people for actual responses, I look to the internet to tell me how many people are reading my blog. I check out what search terms led them here. I look at referring sites. I consider this attention, at some level, to be a form of approval.

At least people are reading.

Analytics rather than serving any actual or specific use or point, merely placates some of the more irrational parts of my “creative mind.” It doesn’t mean what I’m writing is any good–not that I’d believe you if you said so anyway–it proves something even more important: you are reading.

According to Oddletters, people are less likely to trust the opinions of those who know them well–that those opinions are colored by the fact that people like you. Third party observers, near strangers, are more likely, we feel, to be “scientific” in their opinions, that this lack of emotional involvement is grounds for a more honest opinion. This instinct of ours discounts the idea that people who know us better know us better and understand what we’re doing. It also discounts politeness to strangers. As Matt says “I can be nice to anyone, I can only be a jerk to my friends.” With things like analytics data, we don’t have to know, or even care, whether you’re being polite because you’re a friend or you’re being polite because you’re a stranger. We know you’re there and that’s all that matters.

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Bicycle, 04

My relationship with my bike is changing.

It’s not my bike, I keep having to tell myself. It’s on loan. It’s not mine. But, some part of me sees that bike and knows its mine. When I am sitting around for too long, or when that twitch comes, some part of me yearns for the red mixte I’ve been riding around.

A mixte, I learned, looks like a girls bike–the non-gender-discrimination friendly term being a “step up” bike–but is for either gender. Rather than having the bike frame be a single piece on which the weight of the rider rests, the bar holding the seat pretty much only holds the seat and the cross bars running from the front to the back don’t support that weight at all. Mixtes are usually smaller–as in they don’t usually make them sized for taller people. I, being just above average height, fix on this one great.

Well, mostly great. The frame is a little smaller than I’d like, and if I point my foot on the downward part of the pedaling revolution, sometimes my toe hits the ground. But we don’t talk about that.

I was riding into Boston when the left hand gear cable snapped. I didn’t fear–it could still go, I was just stuck in a lower gear than I liked to ride in. On my way back home, I stopped at the bike shop.

There are a lot of bike shops in the area, but Broadway Bikes is the one to go to–so I’m told. When I told them that my gear shift cable broke, they took some measurements and quickly gave me a new one–with new housing, and an end cap. They filed the housing down and put little metal caps on the end of the tubes. It was pretty cool. They asked if I needed help installing it and I insisted I’d be fine.

And I was.

I was a little unsure of which part of the derailleur the cable slid into, but I looked at another bike and compared. I’d checked out the Sheldon Brown article on changing cables, and that had helped. Most importantly, as I switched the gears and ran the pedals just to make sure, everything worked.

Looking at my working bike, I felt cool.

I felt -really- cool.

I’ve had a rash of feeling cool lately. CJ taught me how to use terminal to log onto IRC. He gave me server space so I can be “persistently logged in.” A showed me how to use terminal to load up a video file. C has been one of my biggest supporters. While she hasn’t actually showed me anything yet, anytime I show up with a new thing that makes me feel cool, she gives me a smile and a hi5.

When CJ taught me how to use terminal, I was so happy, so ecstatic–and overwhelmed with this fact–that I was telling anyone who would listen about it. About how awesome this was. The fact that someone can connect to their computer in that way is pretty amazing to me. When I changed the gear cable, I felt the same way. The fact that people can connect with–modify and change–their bikes like that is also pretty cool. Whenever I do something new with the red bike, I want to tell people. It’s not that I am proud–which I am–but that I want other people to realize how amazing it is that anyone can change their bike.

Snacks

The place I live doesn’t really keep snacks around. We keep around ingredients to make delicious meals, but snacks around here consist of handfuls of sunflower seeds or pieces of bread. Fruit is a great snack when we have it. Mostly, we eat large meals that consist of many parts and steps. On average, it takes over an hour to make a meal around here. This isn’t counting “snack meals,” like when breakfast is a bunch of bagels. For full meals, there’s at least an hour of effort in there. We make a lot of things. Like soymilk.

We have a soymilk maker. It’s fabulous. If you like soymilk, you should buy one. On the ever growing list of things that will suck when I move out, the loss of the soymilk maker is on this list. In making soymilk, there’s this mass of ground up soybeans left over. Sometimes we mix bits of it with eggs to make them fluffy. Sometimes it’s used as a grain replacement with vegetables for snack meals. In the past it’s been used in pancakes. There used to be a resident here who would pour chocolate sauce on it and eat it. Normally, we end up throwing some of it away.

Today, bemoaning my lack of snacks and wanting one, I decided to use it to make crackers. I mixed the watery soybean mush with flour until it has the consistency of dough. I rolled it, cut it, flattened it into circles, and put them on a baking sheet. They were brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with salt, and then doused in whatever seemed like a good seasoning. Each row was different: basil, oregano, nutritional yeast, burberry, turmeric, rosemary, and a few other random, unidentified things. I baked them at 450 until they seemed cracker like.

They are pretty good. Pretty good indeed. I tell myself they’re less unhealthy than most crackers because the main ingredient is soy. I also tell myself that we now need some hummus. I should probably go soak some chick peas.