My Modern Gargoyle

I write for a living. Writing, editing, proofreading. It is basically the only thing I have ever wanted to do and I’m lucky to be in the position I’m in.

Contrary to popular belief, it is not a terribly creative endeavor.

When I write my own stories, I start out feeling wildly creative and brilliant. When it comes time to rewrite, edit, refine, produce, and consider how to deliver the story to an audience – the magic takes a backseat. The car was designed, now it’s up to the robots to put it together.

A majority of my paychecks come from tearing down the work of others and reassembling the same bits in a better way. While the task may require some “creative footwork,” it is by no means a creative task.

I was thinking of the critic John Ruskin this morning. He died. Don’t worry, his passing was a LONG time ago. I recall this thing he wrote (which I can’t find) about stonemasons in the early 1800s: they had to follow fairly precise instructions when it came to building structures (which tended to fall down if they didn’t). The masons added their own creative flair to whatever they were working on through little additions and carvings, many of which were the gargoyles we know of today.

There have never been fewer fundamentally “creative” jobs than there are today. We romanticize and fetishize the creative lifestyle – airy studios with messy canvases, cabins with heavy desks and antique typewriters, endless nights recording in warm studios. Truth is: there are very few places who are hiring for you to “be creative.” Sure, they want your new ideas and some fresh blood, but it needs to fill a very specific cup they have already hardened in the kiln.

You have to cut your own cloth, hang your own shingle, do it yourself – which makes this all much more difficult.

When I make things in my free time, I get tripped up a lot on the illusion of competition. “My writing is better/worse than the next person’s,” we think.” However, creatives are in competition with standardization and the status quo. Every phone will always look like the iPhone because it is the standard idea. Pop music will always be more or less the same because that is the standard sound. At scale, everything looks and behaves the same because it is easier to maintain and move forward.

Even with a thousand independent platforms at our disposal, it has never been more difficult to launch a uniquely creative idea. Everything needs one foot rooted in the standard, in the usual, in order for the masses to understand it. Think of it as a bit of sugar to help the medicine go down.

Until then, the best thing you can hope for is a place to carve out your own gargoyle and a perch high enough to place it on for everyone to admire.

David Pennington
David Pennington

Writing would be great if it weren't the only thing I knew how to do. I publish as much as I can, you'll just have to wait for the rest.  

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