Finding a voice

After Monstrous Me, I thought I had figured myself out.

Here, in book form, was tangible proof that I was better at projects with clear ends and established goals. Despite years of pursuing serial projects that all withered on the vine, I had finally gotten to a good place with my compulsion to make.

The projects I work on are a reflection of what’s happening in my life. In a sense, they have helped me find my voice, when that creative “voice” is something I’ve despaired about for years. In looking back at short films and comics and stories, I see whimsy and delight and wordplay, which are certainly integral to who I am. But they also seemed to exist merely to scratch a creative itch. I never knew exactly what I was trying to say (if that’s even a worthwhile goal in creating, or if the theme should come after, or at all). Despite many attempts, I was often left thinking more about the act of creating rather than anything deeper in the work itself.

Then came Monstrous Me, a deeply personal book (with whimsy and wordplay, too) that fit into my television production schedule. That’s the answer, I thought! Work hard at work, then use the big swaths of non-work time to work at hard at a finite, well-defined creative project.

But after the book’s release, I didn’t feel a push to keep going in that direction, so I waited. I have ideas for other books, but I didn’t have the drive to develop them. I traveled. I cooked. I saw more of my friends.

Then I went in the opposite direction and started 15fiftyfive, a weekly dinner series. Which, as the first official capital-P project after Monstrous Me, flies in the face of everything I thought I’d learned about myself. It’s weekly. It’s dinner. It’s messy. I already know there will be no logical conclusion to this. It’ll exist until it doesn’t exist any longer.

And yet… I’m not sure how to express just how happy the last three weeks have made me. April was a trial month, the figure-out-if-the-kitchen-can-sustain-this-much month, the bribe-guests-with-lots-of-wine-and-food month, the boy-I-hope-this-garbage-disposal-hangs-in-there month. I’ve gotten lost in recipes and days, only to emerge from them as people start to poke their head through the doorway. I’ve made some tasty meals. I’ve made some plain, boring ones. I’ve been awed at friends who lend their support and vision and energy and appetites. I feel active and engaged.

This dinner comes at a time when I wanted to be cooking more to shed the identity of being just a baker. It comes at a time when I want a better understanding of just what food is, which is clearly a big (the biggest?) question. The only way I’ve ever been that successful at grappling with ideas so big is to get my hands busy, and dirty. So here goes.

This dinner also comes at a time when I want to connect with people more deeply than I have been able to before, be it at work, or beyond it. This says more about the way I’ve compartmentalized so much of my life up to this point, and it’s my effort to slowly, surely, finally bring a few of those walls down.

Like projects before it, The Cardmageddon (a card-company inspired by the neighborhoods around Los Angeles) and Connect A Book (a social network for book lovers), 15fiftyfive is an expression of me at a particular point, and it feels more personal than the stories or art I made before. By letting these projects be an extension of what I’m interested in, and pursuing curiosity with a relative fervor, they grow and change while feeding a necessary part of me in a way that the ostensibly more creative work might not have.

This letter aside, I’m not great at talking about myself. I much prefer to let the work I’m doing speak for me. Feeling like I’m finding a voice through the past few projects, and this one in particular, is reassuring, and I am looking forward to how these dinners grow.

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