Last year, for multiple reasons, I decided to start a new project that was 100% for me, and me alone. I wanted to create characters and a story that were not attached to anyone else, and were not intended for a larger audience to enjoy. And while I do love working on AstralSounds, the pressure to create for others can become stressful. Especially in the current internet landscape.
This personal project is one I have used to vent my anxieties and frustrations. Many plot points parallel emotional and traumatic situations in my own life. But it has also been a place where I can write things that are just plain fun. Sometimes it's stupid and cheesy, sometimes it's overly cutesy, and sometimes it's just completely ripping off some other piece of media I enjoy. And none of that matters, because I'm not creating this story for anyone but me.
Sometimes I do share tidbits with close friends. A sketch here, a bit of character background there. A few lucky individuals have learned the larger story, though I still keep the most personal elements close to my chest.
But more than once, when I have shared bits of this project with friends, after explaining how personal and private it is, I have gotten a certain comment.
"You should really post this online some day! People would love it!"
While I know the comment is well-intentioned and meant to be a compliment, it really highlights to me an extremely pervasive issue. The people I share snippets of this project with, the people who are making these comments, are all artists and creatives themselves. And the message that has been drilled into creatives' heads for years is that your art is for being seen, getting you a job, drawing in an audience, earning money. And social media algorithms have made it so that you must post everything you create, because any gap in posting will harm your viewership.
I can't blame any artist for making a comment like that. It's a subconscious idea that has dominated our lives. Our personal wants as artists are shoved aside for the demands of others. Your art isn't for you. It is to be consumed.
And most of the time, I'm happy to create stories that the world can read and enjoy freely. Seeing the positive reactions is so incredibly rewarding.
But having something off to the side to call my own... it feels like a small act of rebellion, a gesture of radical self-love, and a refreshing escape from the pressure to constantly appease.
It's a return to what made me love writing and drawing in the first place.