In my most recent article, I talked about how I developed an all-or-nothing attitude when it came to geekdom because of the way I was raised by my Cambodian parents. The downside to diving deep into my interests, though, is that I end up spending a lot of time alone—but even that has its perks. What kind of perks? The kind that lead to creativity.
I mentioned in my previous article that my parents’ well-meaning, though misguided, overemphasis on education meant that I had a heavily stifled social life growing up, forcing me to learn on the fly as an adult about how to behave in social settings. Thankfully, I turned out all right, but it was a difficult road of awkwardness, foot-in-mouth moments, and trial and error. I have my work as a touring DJ to thank for teaching me how to be social, because nothing beats learning by fire, am I right? (Not.) Of course, while being secluded a lot did suck, it still came with some rather interesting perks.
Since I was often grounded due to bringing home less than a 4.0 GPA in school, I ended up spending a lot of time in my room alone with nothing but myself, my bed, and a rather large radio with my favorite hip-hop station playing constantly—no video games, TV, or computer. Although my social skills suffered, I began to realize that spending time lying on my bed staring at the ceiling with music playing allowed my mind to wander. And eventually, I noticed that I could create stories and fictional worlds in my head. I started to think about how to tell stories, how to put sentences together that could tell those stories, and how to fill those worlds with characters. In short, I essentially wrote a novel in my head.
That’s not all, though. Since I constantly listened to one single radio station that specialized in rap and hip-hop, it allowed me to listen to the same songs over and over, which led me to really dissect songs and understand the musical structure of the genres. Granted, at the time, I severely lacked the skills that I’ve since developed through experience and a conscious effort to learn about aspects of music composition, but still, it planted the seeds of what would eventually become my continuous climb up the musical ladder. And now, I’ve become so accustomed to rap and hip-hop that even if I’m DJing with an artist whose music I’ve never even heard of, I can still demonstrate my skills onstage to make it seem as though we’ve been working as a cohesive unit for years.
As I got older and my parents became less strict, I realized that I had come to cherish my time alone, and not just because I’m an introvert. When I’m alone, I’m able to organize my thoughts in a way that allows my logical side and my creative side to work in harmony, rather than trying to actively murder each other. So, upon realizing that, I did what any isolated creative teen does when they become an adult: I began writing. I’m not talking about writing for Twin Cities Geek—as cool as it is that I get to be a part of this community as a contributor, I had been writing long before I joined. No, instead, I began writing fiction, and I found that I had a knack for it. All because I was stuck in my room alone as a teen. I think there’s a pattern here.
After a stint in the US Army and the end of a not-so-great relationship in 2010, I joined a web forum and took a crack at writing a Halloween-themed story for a writing contest hosted by said forum, the first fictional story I had written since junior high school. It was titled Halloween Nights, and it was meant to be a campy urban-fantasy short story told in the first-person perspective that satirized the Twilight series, which was hugely popular at the time. The problem was, I couldn’t fit everything I wanted into a short-story format, so it stood on its own after I withdrew from the contest. Then I rebooted it, giving it a much darker feel à la Christopher Nolan, and titled it Halloween Nights: Resurgence. I also started, though never finished, a sequel. Between those, I attempted many other stories with ideas that I simply had swimming around in my head.
These days, the proliferation of ideas has gotten so bad that I have a dedicated Google Drive folder that contains nothing but story concepts that I do not plan on writing, just stored there as data on a cloud server somewhere. As for the concept of Halloween Nights as a story, well, it’ll forever be posted on that forum for curious eyes and users with a dedication for finding it, but aside from that, it is dead as a title. Instead, I’m self-publishing a series of urban fantasy novels titled Moonlit Knights. I guess my life is a whole lot of realizing I have a talent for something, and min-maxing the crap out of it.
I mention all of this because most people, even introverts, when they’ve been cooped up in a single room all day, they begin to feel . . . well, cooped up. Granted, getting up and stretching, getting the blood flowing and muscles moving, is a good thing. Actually, it’s a very good thing. But for me, having gotten so used to spending so much time alone, I don’t feel cooped up. Instead, I feel creative. I feel like I have the ability to create incredible worlds that can’t exist in real life. Like there are characters I can create from nothing and get them to interact with each other and build relationships. I can create epic fight scenes, from one on one to massive battles between opposing factions. I can control the fate of any character I so choose, or even the fate of entire worlds. I can live the fantasy of a federal agent, or a street racer, or a pirate, or a ninja, or an anime character. I have access to all of this within my mind, and combined with the wonderful information superhighway that is the Internet, I can access just about any amount of information on any given topic that I want to use in my writing. Oh, and listening to music while I write, too—that’s always nice.
And speaking of music, there’s something amazing about sitting in a room alone with a tube amp in front of me, a guitar on my lap, and an empty notebook. Or sitting at my desk with my amp beside me, my waifu—I mean, my guitar—on my lap, and a chord guide on my computer screen. When I’m in this state, it’s like I come alive and all these crazy ideas that I’ve come up with while daydreaming or Lyft driving begin to manifest themselves in the form of musical compositions. Or even opening my music-production software and staying up until 5:00 a.m. toiling away on an instrumental without realizing what time it is. Being alone helps me focus on getting my brain to work and create things that I simply would not be able to create if there are other people around, barring my best friend, or people constantly barging in and asking me IT-related questions, like my parents. Isolating myself allows me to go with the flow of music uninterrupted and let my creativity flow out unabated. It also allows me to work without a mental filter. In my day-to-day, I’m constantly filtering what’s in my brain preventing, it from coming out due to fear of being seen as a nutjob. Though, to be fair, I am kind of a nutjob.
Creating things is a lot of fun. Whether it’s a cosplay, writing, music, art, or anything else, creativity does wonders for the human psyche and sanity. But there’s something much more important than everything else I’ve talked about up to this point. It comes with having lived through a lot of hostility, you learn to have empathy. That is perhaps, the most important upside of all, and that will be what I’ll be talking about next.