On Monstrosity


On Monstrosity

This post was originally published on my patreon and my newsletter on October 31st, 2023

I am taking a break from watercolor.

But I’ll come back to that in a moment. This was supposed to be a piece of writing about the need for creativity as an act of pleasure. Of how we so often deny ourselves pleasure, and how we must make space for it.

That post is coming, but this is not it.

For several years I have done the labor of parsing difficult emotions, learning to feel them and then define them, categorize them, and to give myself space from them in an effort to give myself an element of control. My watercolor work has paralleled this work and has largely been a way for me to talk about hard things: How to find beauty in ourselves when we have been conditioned to feel otherwise. How to find strength and joy in our identity.

Tight. Controlled. Within the lines.

Lately my emotions feel like they stretch beyond my body.

I have often marveled at how it feels like my body is too small for so many large feelings. And lately I’ve wondered: what if my body grew so that it could be an appropriate vessel? What if it’s not that my feelings are too big, it’s that I’ve been making myself too small?  What does it mean to take up space – not in a “you and your feelings are VALID” type of way. Instead, in a way that conveys behemoth. Incomprehensibility. Monstrosity.

What does it mean to become monstrous?

What if the fire in my heart could destroy everything? What does it look like to take up so much space that the world shakes? What if I could move and contort my body the way it has been asking, to find space in weird angles and pressure and tension? What if that tension could crack bones?

What if my emotions simply do not fit into the container to which they have been assigned? I have spent all this time finding beauty in becoming – what does it mean to let myself be a monster?

I’ve written before that I think there is a piece of broader queer identity that is currently reckoning with ideas of self that society has deemed gross, icky, and otherwise unlovable. I see a huge amount of work within queer community in reclaiming those pieces of identity, and I think that there is liberation to be found in meeting that previous shame with love and tenderness. This has largely shown up in my work in the form of worms and toads, and other slippery things that haven’t made their way onto the internet.

Lately I’ve wondered if every single thing needs to be transformed into beauty. Does every emotion need to take me down the road to happiness? Right now, the work feels like it is found in not distancing myself from my emotions in order to intellectualize them, but in feeling them with my whole body. And not all emotions are so easily contained. Those emotions in particular are the ones I am interested in making space for. How does one create a vessel that adequately holds grief?

What does it mean to become monstrous?

My current watercolor work does not feel like a vessel for this.

This post was supposed to be about pleasure, about making the time to do the work that brings you pleasure, about how it is a necessity in a world that conflates creativity with personal brand, and that pressures you to monetize something fundamental to being human.

But maybe before we can move into creativity as an act of pleasure, we must first engage with it as an act of liberation:

To stretch beyond the limits of ourselves.

To reckon with our impossibility.

To bring forth the vast inner expanses of our experience

To touch our unfathomability

When I sit down to work and dip my brush into my watercolor pigment, I can feel the enormity of myself pressing against the constraints of my current work as though it was a glass box, the walls of which are cracking. I need the space to make terrible art. I need the space to stretch in ways that the control of my current watercolor process does not allow.

I’m not sure what this looks like? As someone who makes a living off the outcomes of their creativity, this feels uncertain and a little scary. But it also feels right- at least for now. Every time I have given myself space for exploration I have come back stronger.

My friend Shing has started keeping a Dev Journal on their patreon as they work through game development. I’ve loved the idea as I’ve followed along, and as I’ve intended to use patreon as a behind the scenes look at creativity, it feels like a good place to document this exploration.

If you are not already a patron, this is an invitation for you to join me over there.

This is certainly not an end - it feels like more of an expansion. I have no doubt that I will come back to watercolor as a medium, and that it will likely be a part of this space for exploration. But I am looking forward to what my own creativity looks like outside of watercolor for a while. 

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