(This is part 2 of a series. For part 1, read this)
You’re wasting your time, adults would say.
I was certainly one of those children who haunted arcades. Maybe you were, too. I have certainly wasted a lot of time in these places. A few bucks meant an indeterminate amount of entertainment. I say indeterminate because the truth was, there was no telling how long those few tokens would actually last me. There were only a few games in those places I could actually say I could say I could make sing, and those weren’t the ones that drew the crowds, the competition, and—invariably—the petty gambling. Keep in mind I would invariably waste many tokens on those games, too, mind you, though I was never as good as those game-shark Player 2 types who made it their careers to butt-in and, by game-shark skill, remain playing long after your last lives were wasted. I was never as good as those guys.
But I kept doing it. In retrospect, I’m not sure what was wrong with me, but visits to these places of demented reward-less spending of silver and green persisted. The reason why I went, I know now, was not for the promise that I would be The Best—though this drove those more competitive types, I’m sure. Frankly, even the modest promise that I might improve—this idea of ‘practice’—existed in spirit only. Because the truth is, I never got better at those popular games I was bad at to begin with. Not really. And, in retrospect, I didn’t really give a shit whether or not I did. Because it was something more primal that kept me going back—lets call it a feeling of potential. I don’t know what else to call it other than that. It’s a dynamic, set in motion by the nominal weight of eight quarters and a free summer afternoon and the idea that something cool and fun will happen with them, though the value of those variables—exactly how cool, and exactly how fun—are unknown. So you gotta try to find out!
As I said, that feeling of potential is with me, even today. It’s that same force that drives me to do any creative thing performed for little benefit. It’s the feeling of comfort I get with the blank page and an empty file that is also the fund that bankrolls every new failure—every new song I draft that few, if any people will really hear, or story that I may spend untold weeks, months, or in some cases, years, meditating on and get nowhere with. It’s that numbing analgesic that dulls the ego, whose raw senses inflame with offense at the noise made anytime a new instrument is held, hit, squeezed, or blown into. What keeps red eyes re-reading that first draft. In this sense, it has little to do with success or failure—it’s just the exhilaration of trying. Hell, it’s even that thing that makes me try (i.e. burn) an unfamiliar recipe (well, if it’s not the same thing, then it’s related to it).
What it is, in fact, is a primitive spirit of play. and it exists to drive all try. Because gotta try. You gotta.
What else do you have?
(Read on: Part 3)