Tim Ferris says that “life isn’t about finding yourself. It’s about creating yourself. ” To which I say… “no shit”, but also “not exactly”. It’s both. And neither. Simultaneously. It’s finding, and creating. There is no difference, no mutual exclusivity. They are one and the same.
Finding is creating, Creating is finding. No creation is ever a creation ex-nihilo. Creation is an inventoried search. A catalogued exploration.
Hank Green says that “everything is inherited,” and what matters most is “what you do with what you have.” You have to collect all the discordant tesserae of who you are in order to make a mosaic of all you can be. And, the real magic of creating is in finding how all the pieces fit. Amanda Palmer explains that “All art, no matter what shape it is, has to come from somewhere, and one can only connect… what we can collect”. This pliable exploration of evolving oneself is an artistic endeavor. And any creative act of artistry is by necessity, and perhaps even by design, a matter of collection and connection.
Finding and creating operate in tandem because they are each incomplete on their own. There is no platonic realm of perfect forms in which to discover your perfect self. There is no ‘ideal you’ that you can finally, once and for all, create. This is something the artists knows; every work is a work that fails and falls short.
“You cannot fill in the vision. You cannot even bring the vision to light. You are wrong if you think that you can in any way take the vision and tame it…The vision is not so much destroyed…as it is, by the time you have finished, forgotten. It has been replaced by this changeling, this bastard, this opaque lightless chunky ruinous work.”
The artist knows that the vision lost to ruin and change is precisely what is both created and discovered. That is the art itself. A discovery that is flailing and infirmed creates the conditions for something beautiful and new. A creation, broken and misshapen unearths unseen parts of ourselves that we never ever knew. Making and meandering. Creating and curating. the wreckage and the rising. The “Two are one,” says Ursula Le Guin, both “lying together like lovers…like hands joined together, like the end and the way.” “Light,” she says, “is the left hand of darkness.” We find that the making of our meaning, is in the meaning of our making.
“[T]he artist,” Heather Havrilesky says, “leans into reality; the dirt and grime of survival, the sullen grim folds of the psyche, the exquisite disappointments, the sour churn of rage, the smog of lust, the petty moments that fall between.” She says that “The artist embraces ugliness and beauty with equal passion”, and “knows that this process is always by its nature inefficient…a slow effort without any promise of a concrete, external reward.”
Every self we can suppose is a fiction. There is no best self; not one that we can either find or create. No faultlessly formed version ourselves somewhere in the future to be uncovered. “The best version of you”, Havilesky concludes, “is who you are right here, right now, in this fucked up, impatient, imperfect, sublime moment.” Its not about finding or creating. Your task is to make the most of the self you can find.