This is a post I never thought I’d write. I never thought it would be necessary to do so. In the traditional sense, I still don’t think it’s necessary. Nobody is clamoring for this. Nobody asked. But I feel it’s necessary to write for myself. This is less about explaining myself to you than it is about coming to terms with my own limitations and, maybe, a more serious problem with myself that I’ve never fully addressed, whether out of fear of confronting it or embarrassment of admitting it. This is the story of the three-month rule, of a boy in his bedroom and his antisocial dread. This is the story of why I do this, or perhaps more truthfully, it’s why I eventually, inevitably don’t do this.
The blog was never my idea. Nor was the podcast. Nor were any other creative endeavors I’ve found myself invested in throughout my life. With the exception of my music and fiction writing, it’s all been because of suggestion. Maybe not exactly the sort of suggestion that one might label “peer pressure,” but close to it. Social obligation, essentially. I wasn’t pressured into starting or doing anything, but I did feel obligated to…you know, for social purposes. As a way to connect. It goes back to memories I have of recess in elementary school. I’d talk to the kids with whom I had similar interests, and of course as normal kids tend to do (“normal,” I suppose, being the operative word here), they’d invite me to hang out with them outside of school and participate in those interests with them. And I never wanted to. To me, those were my interests. My hobbies. My passions. It didn’t mean they couldn’t also be other people’s interests, hobbies, and passions too, but — and I realize I’m already revealing the totally fucked up antisocial root of this whole dilemma — I wanted to experience them on my own, in my own way. Nothing I’ve loved has ever been for social reasons or to feel a sense of community with people who also love the same thing. The Groucho Marx line about not wanting to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members has become a cliche by this point, but it’s nevertheless always rung true for me. I’ve always been not just content but wholly fulfilled enjoying things on my own, and I never saw eye to eye with anyone who insisted on turning every interest into a club.
To be clear, I’m not saying that’s what has happened in this current predicament. Oh sure, I’ve been approached by the occasional opportunistic vulture who wanted to “pool our resources” to gain more followers, views, listens, or what have you. But it hasn’t been nearly frequent enough an occurrence to warrant the sort of visceral backlash against my own decisions to start a blog and a podcast that I’ve been feeling lately. I’m no longer in my adolescent phase of blaming all my angst-ridden insecurities on others. It’s on me. And it always has been. I understand that now. Nobody ever pressured me into doing anything I didn’t want to do. I pressured myself into doing things I didn’t want to do. Maybe it was out of guilt for not giving people a fair chance or something. Maybe it was part of an ill-conceived attempt to appear more “normal” (there’s that word again, and I’ve a feeling it’ll recur a few more times before I’m done writing this). But it was on me.
Simply put, I can no longer pretend that I am socially “normal” enough to continue being part of “the horror community.” Or “the podcast community.” Or any other community. I understand the appeal of the communal aspect of being interested in something. It’s validating. It’s comforting. It’s reassuring. As Ween put it in one of their more uncharacteristically heartfelt songs, “I understand it…but I don’t want it.”
The dark truth behind the silly-voiced fake ads in my podcast, the sophomoric observations I barely manage to sputter out with my much more coherent guests (and that’s after a lot of editing is done to remove my constant fumbling of words and panicked meandering meant to disguise the fact that I’m never sure what point I’m trying to make whilst speaking off the cuff), the impassioned rants on the classism behind the concept of taste and whatever else I convince myself is a pressing issue, these words I type on this blog that at best will only be skimmed through by a few people, probably also out of some nonexistent social obligation — the truth behind all of this is that it comes from someone who is mentally and emotionally incapable of keeping up with the demands of being even a minor (very, very, very minor, that is) public figure.
I’ve used my real name on everything I’ve done, and I’ve always vaguely prided myself on that in the respect that I’ve been trying to communicate something beneath the pop culture-centric surface of what I write and talk about that I feel is intensely, uniquely myself. The content has always been far less important to me than the voice I’ve used to express it with. I frankly don’t care about convincing anybody that I have anything substantive to say about any given movie or about movies in general. The idea that this is a movie blog, or that Celluloid Bastards is a movie podcast, is a shoddy structure full of deliberate cracks that perspire with whatever tiny traces of my personality I could reasonably let ooze through them without scaring off the small (but thankfully very cool) audience I’ve somehow managed to attract. The lyrics never meant as much as the tune did. I don’t have anything to say that other, smarter people haven’t already stated much more eloquently. Truth be told, I don’t even find that much personal use for film criticism (which I maintain isn’t even what I do, but I’ve accepted that that’s what it gets categorized as), and my favorite movies tend to be ones that I think defy analysis (Baraka, In the Mood for Love…honestly, movies that play more like music than narrative cinema). The only thing I have to offer is myself, which of course doesn’t exclude my thoughts on movies and other forms of art and pop culture, but I’ve always struggled to restrict my output to just that. As much as I love talking about movies, I find doing it in any kind of semi-professional capacity to be frustratingly limiting in terms of what I actually want to be doing.
I’ve lied to you. I’ve cheated you. I’ve presented myself as a sardonic horror hound eager to do nothing more than share my love of trashy movies with fellow countercultural miscreants, joking and jesting along the way like some fucking late night talk show host performing for a silent, invisible audience. Every single episode of Celluloid Bastards, every single article on Mondo Vulgare, has been more difficult for me to complete than I care to admit. And I don’t mean difficult in the “people don’t realize how much hard work goes into this” sense. I mean in the “people don’t realize the kind of existential dread and self-doubt I have to overcome every time I even think of putting something out there into the world” sense. It’s not a fun process. I’m lucky enough to have almost always been pleased with the final results, but no, I absolutely do not enjoy having to go through what it takes to get me to even work up the motivation to do it. It drains me. Far more than I’ve let on. I’ve found myself sitting on my couch with an episode of the podcast completely finished and ready to go, just catatonically staring at my laptop screen hesitating to click the “upload” button because there’s this voice in my head telling me I should just delete the file and never do this again because it’s not really me, it’s all a lie, it’s just a role I’m playing for an audience I’ll never even see, and I hate myself for succumbing to this misplaced sense of obligation I have to do it anyway because it’s the closest thing to a social life that I have (other than my wife and cat, both of whom I’m eternally grateful for), and I feel like I really should put in the effort to maintain it.
And I realize these kinds of thoughts don’t sound, well, “normal” to most of you. I can’t fully explain what goes on in my head though. I don’t even really understand it myself. So if you’re not quite following me here or don’t entirely get what my problem is, that’s to be expected. The bottom line is that I essentially had to force myself to start this blog, as well as the adjacent podcast, because other people told me they thought I’d be good at it, and my socially inept mind interpreted that as “do it even though you’re not comfortable with it, because people will like you more if you do.” Do they? I think in some ways, yes, they do. But I have to come clean and admit that it’s not worth the mental and emotional toll that it takes on me. I don’t like myself when I’m on Twitter promoting some article I wrote or some podcast episode I recorded. In fact, I fucking hate myself when I do that. But it’s what I’m told I’m supposed to do, so I do it. “You’re not gonna make friends unless you put yourself out there” has evolved into “you’re not gonna gain followers unless you put yourself out there,” and that’s what I’m trying to say: I can’t stand being “out there.” I hate how I feel when I’m “out there.” I never, ever wanted to go “out there,” and every panic attack, catatonic fugue, suicidal impulse, and moment of sheer, utter dread that I’ve experienced since starting these endeavors have me fully convinced that I simply do not belong “out there.”
When I was a kid, my parents made me do a whole bunch of things I never wanted to do in order to improve my social skills, and their rule was that if I still didn’t want to do it after three months, I could quit with the stipulation that I had to join something else instead. So I was on a baseball team for three months. I was on a soccer team for three months. I was on a basketball team for three months. I took karate lessons for three months. I was in the Cub Scouts for three months. I did a lot of different things for three months each. Never, not once, did I decide to continue any of them after the mandated three-month period had expired. I was also notoriously fussy about going to friends’ houses (I never wanted to go, and even when I did, I almost always called my mom to pick me up far earlier than was initially agreed upon), and when friends would come over to my house, I’d usually start ignoring them after an hour or two and just kind of leave them to their own devices until their parents picked them up.
Again, I realize that none of this is “normal.” A normal person has social needs. And what I’m saying is that I don’t think I do. In fact, I evidently have such an aversion to the concept of unwanted socialization that even running a blog or a podcast is too much for me to handle. I enjoy writing (or more specifically, I enjoy having written, since the act of writing itself is tedious to me when I already have the whole thing in my head…I’m looking forward to a direct thought-to-page transcriber in the future). I enjoy talking about movies. I enjoy writing and playing music. I enjoy all of these things. But I do not enjoy attention. Even a little bit of it, which is all I’ve gotten. I will act happy if a famous person shares something I did on social media, but inside I’m overwhelmed and panicking to the point of considering deleting whatever it is of mine they shared just to avoid garnering more attention. I do not want attention. I do not want to belong to a community. I do not want to be approached by strangers for any reason. I do not want to feel obligated to anyone. I do not want any of this, and I feel like I’m on the verge of a complete nervous breakdown on top of everything else that’s going on in the world right now, all of which is obviously much more serious than the proverbial hill of beans that my mental and emotional hang-ups add up to.
That being said, I’m not quite stepping away completely. I’ll still write for the blog occasionally. I’ll still post a new episode of the podcast occasionally. I’ll still release a new album occasionally. Maybe I’ll even finally publish some of my fiction so people can actually read it. But I’ll never put myself on a schedule again. I’ll never make myself feel obligated to do any of it again. I’ll never go out of my way to self-promote again aside from a quick, casual “hey, here’s this thing if you’re interested.” I’ll never delude myself into thinking any of this is something I actually have to be doing again. This sounds redundant, but from now on, I only want to work on what I want to work on. Sometimes that’ll be another podcast episode, but if I go months without a new one, that’s just fine by me, and I’m not going to force myself to put something out there, well-meaning but ultimately irrelevant to my own interests advice from fellow podcasters be damned. Sometimes it’ll be a new blog post, but likewise, I’m not gonna beat myself up over it if I go a long time without writing one, and hey, if you’re the type of person to tell me that I should really enforce deadlines on myself if I want to advance my career, then you’re exactly the type of person I never want to encounter again.
“Hustle culture,” as it’s come to be known (is everything a culture and/or a community now?), is death. To me, anyway. If you find that mentality to be a positive force in your life, keep at it. I’m not stopping you. But I hate it with every fiber of my being. I’ve hated it since before I knew what it was. Even more, I hate that I actually started buying into it, even to the tiniest degree of pimping my art for likes, follows, and shares. I hate it. Maybe I’m a primitivist when it comes to art in that I view it strictly as a form of communication — a higher form, an enhanced form, an abstract form, etc. — and not a business venture. Based on what I’ve revealed about myself in this post, I’m sure you can tell I have pretty fucking bad social anxiety issues. I create because it’s my way of communicating with people my mental and emotional limitations don’t allow me to communicate with in a “normal” way. That’s why I do this. That’s why I write. That’s why I make music. That’s why I even sometimes make short films. Because I can admit now that I’m not “normal,” and this is the only way I really know how to communicate effectively without wanting to scream and peel my skin off. Everything else that comes with the territory thanks to “hustle culture” is why I don’t do it. So in a strange way, not doing it means I might actually start enjoying doing it again soon.
So if you want to view this as an overlong, rambling explanation of why I haven’t updated this blog in eight months or my podcast in almost two months, that’s why. Because I need to focus on my mental health first, and part of that unfortunately might be coming to terms with the fact that I can’t keep doing this on a regular basis, at least not in the way that I’ve been doing it. It’s given me panic attacks and caused me to have suicidal thoughts. As embarrassing as I may have found that at one point thanks to society brainwashing me into thinking that I was weak for it, I’m not ashamed now. That’s just who I am. I’m finally starting to learn my limitations and boundaries, and I’m finally starting to give them the consideration they require. I’m also starting to be okay proclaiming that I do, in fact, have a lot of strengths both as a person and an artist, and I look forward to focusing on using those strengths to their full potential without being hindered by catering to other people’s insistence that I should ignore rather than address my weaknesses. I know myself now better than I ever have, and all of my creative endeavors will benefit from this in quality, even if they suffer in terms of consistent output. But again, feeling obligated to put things out there consistently is part of what almost destroyed my drive to create at all, so I’m moving on from that.
I want to help normalize the idea that you can still just write because you want to or because you have something to communicate. I want to help de-normalize the idea of compulsory productivity. I’m done trying to gain followers. I’m done trying to maintain an audience. As far as expressing myself and communicating through whatever form I’m feeling at the moment in a way that is, for whatever else it may or may not be, completely representative of myself — my decidedly not “normal” self, I admit — that’s only just begun. And I look forward to sharing it, even if I won’t be promoting it.
And I do intend to broaden the scope of my expression quite a bit, since as I already mentioned, I do find that being pigeonholed as a horror blog, a cult movie podcast, or whatever else I’ve been called to be incredibly limiting, and I no longer wish to even try to fit into the mold that I’ve unwittingly carved myself into. For example, I’ve been brainstorming an essay — or maybe I’ll record it as a podcast, who knows? — on what I call Cosmic Satanism, a summation of my religious, political, and philosophical beliefs (the “Satanism” label refers to the political, not religious, part of the equation, believe it or not) that I hope to present as equal parts personal memoir, logical argument, and crazed manifesto. So stay tuned, for indeed, things are about to get a lot more interesting in these parts.
Eventually, that is. When the spirit possesses me.