poking the envy

This past weekend, I went to a screening of the film, Poser, an indie feature produced by and featuring artists and musicians from Columbus, Ohio.

First, I have to say, I was blown away by the film. It was truly impressive and one of the most original things I’ve seen on screen in quite a while.

Seeing the film did provide the slightly jarring experience of being transported, both to a scene adjacent to the one I came from and to a time when my life was a little more colorful.

The scenes featured in Poser were strikingly similar to people I knew, shows I went to, and moments from my own life (although not nearly as dark and twisted at the film itself). I walked into a theater in Los Angles in the year 2022, the lights went down, and suddenly I was running around Columbus, Ohio sometime in the early 2010s.

While I was sufficiently inspired by the film and its music, the experience did stoke something else in me: envy.

Seeing a film–a really good film–shot and produced just up the highway from my hometown, depicting an outsider trying to permeate the local music scene (a feeling I’m well acquainted with), made me ask myself repeatedly: “Why didn’t I make this movie?

One of the parts I like least about myself is my tendency for comparison. I have a habit of reading books, seeing movies, and listening to music, only to ask myself, “Why did I make that?” I find myself measuring my work against my peers, a task proves to be exhausting. All this achieves is amplifying my own insecurity.

I try to remind myself to stay humble, to be happy for the success of others ,and recognize I’m walking my path and no one else’s. I often turn Anthony Raneri’s “Letter to My Younger Self” in these moments, in which he says:

Do your own thing. Be the flame and not the moth.

You are going to watch band after band jumping on a bandwagon, following a trend and taking the easiest route. They are going to appear seemingly out of nowhere and pass you by. They will form, sell more records, draw more tickets and make more money than you in less time than it took you to get your first record deal. And then they will go away.

The most valuable lesson that I have learned is that it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because they will go away. It doesn’t matter because they are doing what they do and you are doing what you do and one has nothing to do with the other. You are going to get angry and jealous of bands, of other men and anyone who’s got it better than you. You’ve got it good.

Don’t waste your energy hating anyone or anything. It will only make you miserable.

I’ve found the trick becomes funneling my envy into inspiration, taking the parts that stoked such energy and enthusiasm in you, then finding your own version of those things. Take what you can use, leave the rest behind.

Art isn’t a competition. As Seanan McGuire says, “Don’t let anyone tell you, ever, that this is a zero-sum game. Your genius does not threaten me. It delights and inspires me.” (And believe me, there’s a fair amount of genius at work in Poser.)

Ultimately, you won’t make the things that make you jealous, but no one else is going to make what you make either.

And now for something entirely different: One of the best parts of Poser was the phenomenal soundtrack, featuring Damn The Witch Siren, wyd, Joey Aich, Z Wolf, and a whole stable of Columbus musicians.