The ego diet

calendar 12 Oct 2015

Remember when you were young, and you were certain you'd become a famous pop star, footballer, rocket surgeon or whatever? Well, I'm 32 now and that feeling has remained with me. Until a couple of weeks ago.

My holiday to DragonCon taught me that I needed to sit back, enjoy myself and engage in a little more play; to experience other people's creativity instead of forcing my own down indifferent throats.

In jumping off the treadmill I came to realise that the promise of my youth is never going to come true, because I don't have what it takes. I'm not remarkable at anything, and I don't have an overarching talent.

I'm good at quite a few things. I can play the piano passably, I can sing, do a little voice-acting, string a sentence together and write a nice line of code. But I have absolutely no followthrough, and no dominant skill. In short, I'm a dilettante, not a polymath.

It's incredibly freeing to realise that you no longer have to strive for something, but it's also disappointing, especially when for so long you've believed your own hype. I'm not an arrogant man; I always knew that there wasn't one thing I excelled at, so since I left university 11 years ago I've been casting around for my ticket to greatness... or at least something that'll take me away from mediocrity.

This has come to a head over the last few months, from the founding of Poddle in 2013 to the numerous podcast projects I've put out. In all the pre-recorded shows, live streams, interactives, games, hacks, blog posts, reviews, thought pieces, short stories and songs I've put out since 2008, I never stopped to ask "why" or "who cares?"

I'm not bothered that everything I've made is disposable. Much of the stuff put out by the people I admire - most, but not all of whom are across the pond and many I've been lucky enough to meet or interact with - is ephemeral. But pretty much all the polymaths whose work I enjoy made their start by being really good at one thing.

Trouble is, at 32, the thing I'm best at isn't sustainable.

I enjoy making things quickly from an idea. I love that I can take a 5am idea and have it on its feet by the evening. But that lack of followthrough means that those things seldom live on, not because I get bored of them, but because without someone to make it for, it feels pointless.

And thus we come to my insatiable ego. My appetite for food is matched only by my ego's appetite for attention. Not fame, but earned attention. If I wanted fame I'd have tried my hand at The Voice (I'm not suggesting I'd get past a pre-audition, but that it would be my route if such were my goal). I want to do something that has a purpose, has meaning and creates a community.

This is just one of the reasons I love podcasting. It's something I can do, and do pretty well (the speaking and editing parts), but what I lack in everything I do is that spark of originality. I look at things my friends create and think "well my stuff's as good as that; why hasn't it caught on?" And partly that's because I'm so bad at people that I've never formed a network, but if I'm really honest, it's because nothing I do is all that original. It's all been done before, from the daft parody songs about current affairs to the fiction blog to the UsVsTh3m - and now BuzzFeed - style "Toys & Games" I've built.

The only thing I have that's original is my candour, and I even had to make that into a podcast.

So since I got back from Atlanta in early September, I've been on an ego diet, and have so far only done two things: started a show with an Atlantan friend - which was something we'd planned for about a year - and continued to produce an event in Birmingham, called Ignite.

The former I haven't publicised, because it's just a chance for me and my friend to shoot the shit, and for me to keep my hand in a hobby I enjoy. The latter is something I've been very vocal about, but it's important to note that, unless the audience looks behind them, they'll never see me. I'm not on-stage, I'm not putting my name all over it (it's being run under the Poddle name, in conjunction with the Glee Club) and I'd be pretty happy if my name weren't mentioned on the night at all. I just want to put on an awesome show that people enjoy, and then do it again, and again, and again.

But just like the body craves chips when the calories are being counted, so the ego craves indulgence. So you can consider this blog post the extra-large Domino's that my tiny little monster needs to feast on.

I'm incredibly grateful that I have Ignite to channel my need to create. And it is a need. Because I'm single, and probably will be for the foreseeable, I don't have anyone else to occupy my time, and I'm not entirely sure that if I did have someone to share my evenings with, I wouldn't still be here, tapping away at the computer while she watches Homeland. I can't blame my need for attention on being a single man, so I have to channel it.

I'm not arrogant enough to assume that anyone's wondering why I'm not pumping out a bunch of disposable shite every few days, but, for anyone looking for a reason, this is it. It's not because of Ignite - I'm not disciplined enough to forgo long-lasting contentment for the short-lived high of having made something and seeing how people react - but because I finally realise that, until I can do something truly original - probably with other people - I may as well just settle down and focus.

Maybe one day, there will be a reason I'm here, other than to stick masking tape over bits of the Internet when it comes apart. But until that day comes, I have to be sure that one of the half-dozen ideas that spring up into my head in a given month will actually be worthwhile pursuing.

We'll see. For now though, I have a show to prepare.

Thanks for reading to the bottom.