The Voices in my Head

I often brainstorm for cosplays that I think would be really difficult to pull off. Things with lots of details, or moving parts, or things that don’t play nicely with gravity.  I love the challenge of rendering the impossible complexity of digital creations in a practical, physical world. It is my little act of defiance against normality. I don’t think I am the only one who shares this feeling. Every artist (cosplayer) creates for a different reason, but we are a driven bunch. We like to succeed – to win, to be first, to be best. We like to shine. We like to make.

That drive is what keeps us crafting late into the night when sensible people are asleep. It is the reason we have empty pockets and strings of hot glue in our hair. It is a good quality – perhaps even a virtue. But like most passions, it has a dark side. For me, the dark side takes the form of a very convincing little voice in the back of my head. That voice says a lot of things. Most of them are just plain wrong, and pretty easy to ignore:

Voice: it’s still not working, just give up

Me: I am more stubborn than this material

Voice: you know you’ll never finish in time

Me: the day of the con totally counts as “in time”

Voice: you do know that the cat would do a better job than you

Me: I’ve seen the cat try to craft… just no

A particularly harsh favorite is:

if you aren’t first or best, don’t even try

The dark little voice pulls that phrase out when I am daydreaming or, especially, when I stumble across pictures of an excellent cosplay on the internet. Someone else already did it. Someone else already did it well. What’s the point.

The Dark Side & the Dark Voice

The dark side. I think we’ve all been there at least once. It’s that place where you binge watch hours of Netflix and stuff your face with fudge. Because nothing matters anymore. Because someone already made it. Because you know you can’t do it better than them. The dark side is where dreams bleed out and your muse is left sobbing in the corner. It isn’t a good place to stay, but that dark little voice has a magic power there.

It is hard – sometimes really hard – to leave.

We all know that creativity isn’t always fun. It takes a lot of work to get good at something, and a lot of time (watch later: The Long Game video essay). We also know that we won’t be happy with our work until we’ve leveled up a few times (watch later: Ira Glass on the Creative Process). It is a depressing place to start. It is especially depressing if your standard is “best.”

I think some people let themselves stay there forever. They listen to that dark little voice until it is the only thing they can hear. They let their creativity waste away. They give up and stop dreaming. It’s sad.

I’ll admit, that voice is a convincing little liar – but you don’t have to listen. You are never stuck.

Creativity is a green, growy thing: if you give it some water and set it in a sunny spot, it will come back.


It has become a running joke now that anytime I think of an awesome and practically impossible cosplay, I will see it done to perfection on Facebook the next day. This has happened at least four times. I think it is the universe’s way of keeping me humble. It is also a good reminder of the point: If you strip away all the show and ceremony, I create because I love creating. It’s not a thing that I do, it’s who I am.

If there wasn’t a Con, I would find another reason to create. That might be true for you as well. If so, you can unlock a new bit of dialog with that dark little voice:

Voice: someone already did this

You: yup, don’t care

Voice: he/she did it better than you

You: still don’t care

Voice: your work isn’t going to be best – you won’t be first

You: doesn’t matter – I do this because I love it

I don’t have to be the best. I don’t have to be first. I create because I enjoy the challenge. I do want my craftsmanship to be my best, but that is a personal goal. It doesn’t (and shouldn’t) affect how I view another cosplayer’s creation. The others are not the enemy.

If I asked six writers to tell the same story, each tale would be different. The same is true with visual arts, or music, or cosplay. The way I interpret and render my cosplay is different from the way my dear friend Kavi interprets and renders hers. We each have a unique flair that comes out in our creations. Writer types call it “voice.” Unlike the dark little voice in our heads, this artistic voice is good. It says “I’m me, I’ve got flair, and I make awesome stuff!”

So, next time your dark little voice starts pestering you to abandon hope and stuff your face with fudge, tell it to take a hike.

Then, find your artistic voice and remind yourself that no one else can create the way you do. Find your flair. Create for the love of making! It might help you become a better artist, and it will definitely help you shine.