Have We Lost Personal Projects?

At the weekend I spent my morning watching The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, a documentary about the final cinematic venture of Hayao Miyazaki and his history with Studio Ghibli. I don’t want to go into a massive raving review of the piece, so just trust me when I say every film fan needs to watch this documentary. The personal genius of Miyazaki is perfectly captured in his quiet reflections of life, and like all Studio Ghibli products, is filled with childlike sincerity.

A scene that particularly caught my notice was one in which we first enter Miyazaki’s house. In his rather modest home, we find hordes of creative projects that Miyazaki has been quietly working on. One project was a documentation of daily life after the recession hit Japan. He flicked through page after page of a enormous scrap book, each one filled with photographs.

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“I tried to document the effects of the recession on the people in my area but what I ended up with was just pictures of everyday life.”

To me, a person of the internet, his scrap book seemed like such a foreign concept. The idea that he had put so much time and energy into a project that (if it wasn’t for the cameras) would have never been seen by another person. It was a project he had untaken for himself and for his eyes only.

Older readers of this blog (are you even there?) might be rolling their eyes at my confusion but to you 90s and millennial kids I have to ask – have personal projects died? Has the blog become the new diary? Tumblr the new scrap book? Facebook the new photo album?

When I think about my own creative projects – writing and improvisation – they’re all undertaken with the goal of anothers eyes. Yes, of course, I do them out of my own passion and pleasure, but would I feel so strongly about them if I didn’t have access to an instant audience?

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Someone in my office remarked today that the new app Periscope was symptomatic of our culture. “It’s just another way for people to feel like everything they do is worth something.” This statement was made as we watched Nick Grimmshaw (Radio 1 DJ – don’t worry older readers, I’ll keep you current) go running through an airport because he was running late for his flight. I mean… I do wonder what Shakespeare would have to say if he could see what we were feasted our eyes on. DON’T WE HAVE THEATRE TO WATCH OR SOMETHING?

It seems to me that we are the generation that has crossed from having too small a platform, whereby it was significantly harder to show off your amazing projects, to having too big of one. A platform so big that we can literally just take a picture of a taco and dub it #BALLIN’.

Now I’m not going to stop posting a majority of my creative endeavors online but perhaps it would be nice to have a secret project… a whisper of creativity that only I can open up and was created with only my viewpoint in mind. The internet often clouds who and what we’re creating for. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that most beauty blogs look the same, or that my own tone of voice sounds like some of the blogs I read. In many ways, the internet comes with templates or we find ourselves joining communities that we merge our voice into.

Being a voice within a community isn’t a bad thing. In many ways, the collective element of the internet is one of its best features. However, maybe once in a while we might enter that kingdom of madness and speak to ourselves for a while…

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