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Artistic Expression



The first thing that comes to mind is something I wrote in my fifth year of primary school which puts me at about 10 years old. It was drama class and we all had to write a short script and perform it (I think, I don't really remember the context of this, memories of that time of my life are a blur of reading Harry Potter books and sex ed class).


I wrote a short script about these three burglars who rob a house at night and one of them is kind of an idiot and keeps shouting about how excited he is to rob the house and the other two robbers keep telling him to shut up.


Hilarious, I know. But the drama teacher was so impressed by my writing prowess, that she adapted the script into a full length script (well, a 20 minute one or so) to be presented at assembly to the entire school. Needless to say, I was quite excited. And then I saw the script she wrote.


And at 10 years old, I was filled with the artistic indignation reserved for acclaimed artists forced to watch the purity of their work watered down for easier consumption for the masses. The characters were pale imitations of their original incarnations, the snappiness of the dialogue had been butchered and the whole thing got resolved by a thoroughly unsatisfying Deus Ex-Machina.


I'm really not joking about that last one. I remember when we were rehearsing the play, my teacher who directed the play (not the same person who wrote the script) openly expressed disdain for the way the whole piece wrapped up.


Editor's Note: This is all based on the recollection of the author's 10-year-old self, so do remember to take this a grain of salt.


Both these scripts are now lost to time but I do sometimes wonder, if given the opportunity to re-read the two scripts side-by-side, would I? I think not.


My memory of that moment has very much become a part of my perceived narrative of my life. If I read the script that I wrote now and saw it for the truly awful piece of comic writing it probably was, and the improvements my drama teacher undoubtedly made to it, it would probably upend my understanding of myself and I don't think I want to do it. If it sounds like I'm advocating for a wilful misunderstanding of the past to promote an image on one's self...well, I am. But I think, to a certain extent, this kind of historical revisionism isn't such a bad thing.


We all lie to ourselves a little bit to get through our day to day. It is through undeserved confidence that we are able to do things we otherwise wouldn't do.


Like starting your own business for example. The odds are overwhelmingly against you. According to a highly outdated and click-baity article from 2013 I found after 5 minutes of research on Forbes, 8 out 10 entrepreneurs who start their own business fail within the first 8 months. That's an 80% failure rate. And 100% of that 80% thought they were in that 20%. In an intro to psychology class I took in universtiy, we were all asked to estimate how intelligent we were compared to the rest of the class. Except for two people, everyone – including me - estimated their intelligence to be above average compared to the rest of the class. That's how we good we are at lying to ourselves.


So those two people who placed themselves as being of average intelligence were probably more self-aware than the rest of us which sounds good but I am convinced they will never make anything of themselves. Because they would look at the 80% failure rate of starting your own business and not even try because that's the smart thing to do.


But humanity makes progress by taking stupid and utterly ill-advised risks and if people stop deluding themselves into thinking they are above average, progress will stop.


So I need to believe that this comedy sketch that I wrote when I was 10 was as good as anything you would see on Saturday Night Live or Collegehumor because if I don't, how the hell am I supposed to get out of bed in the morning?

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