These dark roads we endure,
We stumbled and stuttered
And struck out for new shores.
XOXO, for me at least, was a strange mix of raw, emotional outpouring and rare, infectious positivity. And it’s not an experience that I’m finding easy to integrate back into everyday life.
It was a fuse — a fizzing, spitting, lively illumination. And I can feel the inevitable detonation approaching with each passing day. It takes effort to tend that spark, to ensure it doesn’t fizzle, stifled by the drizzle of everyday obligations. But its burn can’t be hastened. It’s a process with its own inexorable rules, as inevitable as any law of physics.
Misery loves company, and self-doubt stalks the creative impulse like a goddamn vampire. Whether you’re a filmmaker, textile artist, poet, youtube philosopher, baker, coder, journalist, hardware hacker or singer-songwriter; each small fragment of your soul that you pluck out, polish up and render tangible for the world takes pain and energy, and begs the question “is this enough?”
It never is. Over and over, this past weekend, we heard accomplished and astonishing people pour out their doubts; their astonishment at achieving success; their naked, shivering inferiority complexes.
And in a different context, that might sound depressing; might sound like criticism, but it’s not. We all feel it. Sometimes a group-hug is the best remedy.
If XOXO had one central, important point, it was this: you’re not alone; “Here’s to the crazy ones.”
And yet, there was a more powerful force present in Portland; that of inspiration. The constant affirmation that, in doggedly following the barest threads of creativity, it is possible to find an audience; a path; a world made better by your presence in it.
And in the social spaces around the conference, there was a constant whirl of ideas conversing and combining and colliding, a whirlwind of thought far surpassing the simultaneous creative/destructive force of anything as prosaic as a mere Sharknado; a veritable Shiva of cognitive effort.
XOXO is the only conference I’ve ever attended where parties held at 9pm were half-empty because large numbers of people had, self-confessedly, “gone to have a quick nap”. It’s as though hundreds of grown men and women reverted to early childhood for a moment, involuntarily retreating to their cribs to slumber while their neural pathways underwent fundamental readjustments.
And these early thoughts of mine are nothing but a surface barely scratched. Whine served with cheese as anaemic as the mildest Tillamook; affirmations triter than a Tony Robbins/”Chicken Soup For The Soul” mashup audiobook.
These words are, I feel, not enough, but they’re a start, and as long as I… no, wait; as long as we tend that sputtering fuse of inspiration, they will become more in time.
They will be just enough, I hope, to keep us singing, and coding, and cooking, and tinkering, and talking, and drawing, and philosophizing, and sculpting, and organizing, and writing, and fighting.
Not enough for us to magically, overnight, re-form the world into the better place we know it can be. But enough for us, kicking and screaming, to keep putting little dents in its surface until, at least, it is in better shape.
Not enough. But, perhaps, just sufficient. For now. Until next time.