Personal Story. Futility 1.

I am a one woman operation. Every day I draw about 30 – 60 drawings and since I can’t afford an assistant, in the evening I scan them in myself.
The simple, mentally undemanding task of scanning turns my mind on itself. Rather, my mind turns on me:
– What do you think you are doing?
– I am scanning. It is easy. Chill out.
– Scanning is preposterous! You are turning tangible things drawn on paper into some undetectable digits that rely on flimsy electronics made in China!
I freeze. The paper about to be put on the scanner pegs shivers in my hands.
– Is that right?
– Yes! What will happen to your work if your Mac Mini caves into an electric surge and all your files collapse in neat digital but useless piles? To weeks and weeks of your hard labour!?
– Oh, but I can scan it again.
– Scan it again?! But what if something happens to the paper your drawings are on? What you get evicted tomorrow and one of the movers lose the box with all your work done so far? What if 2012 strikes in 2011? What if Global Warming turns Manhattan in Venice overnight? Have you thought of End of the World lately? It is all futile. Your efforts are futile. The best you can do is to to hold on to your dear life. Forget the project, it doesn’t have a chance to get done.
This is why I’ve never made a feature before. My mind has a temperament of a saboteur – every time I start to work on a project it reminds me of all possible disasters, local or global, proving uselessness of my activity. I can trick my mind with a short film by working really fast so the work is done before the mind gets momentum with it’s argument. But now this project is possibly going to last more than a year and my mind is really trying to stop me before the disaster strikes.
Of course, this is very deeply rooted in a childhood trauma, more precisely – prepubescent trauma.
One summer when I was 13, just before the hormones started to kick me around the small town like a puppet, I realized how delicious the early gooseberries were and that I wanted to have them in the winter too.
– There is a recipe for gooseberry jam from Peter the Great times that I got from my grandmother’s second cousin, – my mother advised.
The recipe involved overnight soaking gooseberries in cold water mixed with leaves from black current bush, with a lid pressed by a 4 kilogram brick on top. In the morning the gooseberries were to be rinsed, the current leaves to be thrown out, fresh water and new current leaves added, bring the berries to boil, take it off the stove, leave the pot overnight in a cold place. The next day… in short, it was a very evolved recipe that consumed 3 days of my young life and most of my attention.
The moment I started to close the 10 hot jars full of fresh, still simmering gooseberry jam with vacuum lids, my family gathered at the table for dinner.
– Ah, it smells delicious, – they said and ate 7 of the 10 jars.
– They like it! – I was inspired. – Just wait how much more they like it in the winter!
I gathered more gooseberries and spent the next 3 days creating 20 more jars of jam. I made sure the lids were closed before the dinner time and to protect the jam from my gourmet family I hastily took the jars to the cellar where I put them on cold wooden shelves.
At that instant of the summer the gooseberry season was over and I turned my attention to currents – red, white and black. They were all snatched from under the fingers of my fruit loving family and put into the jars in a form of jam and jelly:
– This is for the winter. For your own good.
Then it came plums’ turn. I discovered that apple and red bilberry jam is irresistible. Pear and cranberry combination gives hints of pine apple. More exotic approaches – tomatoes with finely cut squash – gave a great promise for a solid winter salad.
The cellar was filling with jars of my creations. It was so full, there was barely a place to put any new jars.
Late sunny August day, just before school, one of the old wooden shelves couldn’t hold the weight anymore. The rot that had spread in the wood gave in, the shelve broke in two and all the jars it was holding went down to shelve below, also full of jars. That other shelve couldn’t hold the extra weight and with all the jam and jars it went down to the bottom where my most recent masterpieces were placed. It was a mess of glass, fruit, jam, sugar and my wild tears. Only about 3 of 117 jars survived the catastrophe.
I’ve not made a single jar of preserves since then.
I can barely do the scanning.

About rocksinmypocketsthemovie

I was born in Latvia, educated in Moscow, live in New York. I have made about 14 animated shorts so far.
This entry was posted in Depression. Personal Stories, Hazards of being an artist, The Work in Progress and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Personal Story. Futility 1.

  1. anik says:

    Great analogy. Your writing is very enjoyable and relateable!

  2. Brett W. Thompson says:

    Oh Signe! I think scanning would drive me a bit crazy too!! You are welcome to use my Canon MP780 if I can make my way up there!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Luftmensch says:

    I had a similar experience last night. Lord knows I’m not that exceptional; my drawing’s are okay but not great, and my evening was consumed with an overwhelming sense of futility, that no matter what I do I won’t be successful, or for that matter I don’t deserve to be successful. Why should anyone give a damn about my doodles when they could follow <a href=""Rebecca Clements or Kate Beaton? Or why should any film fund or arts grant choose me when there’s more personal, more important work out there, such as your own?

    So I sulked for the evening and read some Asimov, lamenting the mysterious disappearance of my headphones.

    But then I had a sudden urge. I was afraid of being worthless. More than afraid, I was desperate. They say fear is the best motivator, and I’ve experienced it before in school and work when I was underperforming and at risk of failing/losing my job, but I didn’t know it applied to creativity too. For the next hour I furiously drew and drew until I had a whole miniature comic book about… Well, me overcoming my own fear. Who knows, maybe it’ll be worth something to someone. There’s only like a 1% chance anyone will give a damn, but by merit of actually drawing it and doing it, my odds are infinitely better than if I kept moping.

    Thanks for writing these. It keeps my doubts clear and my head alive.

    • Cecile says:

      @luftmensch: Don’t ever compare yourself to others. THAT is futile ๐Ÿ™‚

      At the risk of making you puke: embrace your own uniqueness! And you inner lunatic! And your inner sulking monkey. And your inner Schweinehund (which is the beast that says “F*** this art for a game of darts, I’m going to give in to sulking and watch a movie and eat cupcakes instead.”)

      So well done on turning your anger into productivity! Drawing well is the best revenge ๐Ÿ™‚

    • I know that feeling very well. The unforgiving self doubt. It paralyzes your hand about to make a masterpiece. I learned to cope with it by lowering the high inner standards (-It is not going to be a masterpiece this time) but when you do that you lower the whole horizon of your ambition. You do end up not making the masterpiece. Although, making something is still better than making nothing at all. I keep drawing even if I know I cant draw. Fuck making the masterpiece. I draw because I can’t help it.

  4. Cecile says:

    Nothing is futile, sweetie. And as an artist you should know that everything in life happens to end up in a story.

    Imagine your jam had come out as desired and your family had spread it onto their toast or rusks or whatever. “Mmm,” they might have said, and gone on with their lives. UNEVENTFUL! NO CONFLICT! NO STORY!

    Now, sweetie pie, you have a story, you feel alive, and even the potentially mind-numbing activity of scanning drawings (40-60 of them? WOW!) leads to more stories, more art.

    The fear of imminent disaster is your body & bind, staying alert to ward off the monsters that may steal your art. It means your movie is going to be fabulous. You know it, we know it, your whole being knows it. Smile at your alertness, thank your body for it, reward yourself with a wild dance around the scanner to uplifting music, and keep going.

    All of us here are cheering you along.

    You rock! And not only in MY pockets.


    • Cecile, THANK YOU for your kind, cheerful words! Yes, the only preserves I make these days are stories. I don’t live, I gather material for my next story.
      This way I don’t get too emotionally attached to situations or things in my life, but still manage to live fully, eventfully and colorfully.

  5. Hi Signe, I first saw your work at the International Festival of Erotic Animation 2007 in Rio de Janeiro. It was my first festival and I was really proud that my film was in the same session as yours because of the caliber of your storytelling.

    I do a lot of scanning/digitizing in my own animation practice. I always worry about peak oil hitting and only the super rich being able to afford to power appliances and entertainment devices. Then I think maybe someone could invent a bicycle-like device that powers a film reel that projects using the sun, but wouldn’t that burn the film? (I don’t know enough about the physics of lenses).

    So should I spend thousands of dollars to get all my digital videos transferred to film or should I go out back and figure out if I can grow anything in my sand. I actually grow a few elements of my films so there’s extra rationale. Can I grow currants in my sand? I’m in Florida.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

    • David, THANK YOU for your note! I think current bushes will enjoy sandy soil but they most definitely won’t enjoy Florida climate. It’s too hot. Some plants need cold winter. But seriously, I am intrigued that we have the same thought – about what will happen if electricity runs out. It doesn’t have to be the running out of oil. It could be the Solar activity burning the electric grid. So many scenarios! Have you heard the NASA talk about 2 per cent chance of an asteroid hitting Earth in 2036? It’s all fun. After many long and elaborate debates with myself about what I want to do before everything goes to Hell, I have decided to continue to do what I enjoy the most – making films the way I make them with the means accessible to me. It involves some suffering along the way. But then – the alternative – drinking beer and sleeping till Noon involves some suffering (hangover) too…
      Hope to see you at a festival one day!!!

  6. What a troublesome inner dialog. Thanks for sharing, my anxieties are similar, at times.

    I try to remember that inevitably some things get lost and some things get broken and some things grow mold and rot and that all things die and that all of that is okay. And important.

    Your ideas shape the thoughts and feelings of others. They connect souls and speak the truth. No matter if the container gets deleted, your magic is eternal, Signe. You make more than just films.

    I believe I shall eat some jam today, in honor of you.

  7. What kind of jam, Michael? I am salivating…
    Although those commercial jams all taste the same – like sugar.
    I should make a jar of blueberry jam for you, no sugar, just berries. Yumm…
    There is Part 2 of the Futility story that am still working on, but there is so little time to write anything if I want to get the work done on the film. I think, I want too much – want to make the film, want to write a blog and want to eat jam.
    : )

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