Can We Create Without Being Sad? (The War Against Release Erosion) / by Dave Connis

I make a thing, it could be any sort of a thing: A funny thing. A thing comprised of musical notes, a thing combined of funny little lines we’ve come to call letters.

I make it with the hope others will enjoy it as much as I enjoyed making it. When the edits have been made, the tweaks have been tweaked, and the stage has been set, the fanfare blares in my head.

“This will be the one.”

“This will change lives and move hearts.”

“This will be the slayer of the masses.”

My finger twitches above the button that will release the hounds. Send forth mine creation into the bright blue world to be cherished and loved by all.

I press it. Suddenly, my gut becomes a daring teen on a trampoline, flipping more than it should.


That’s literally all it takes for me to feel what I’ve dubbed “Release Erosion.” It’s a special kind of acid. One that erodes at the soul with each passing second, one that picks at the heart with extravagant fervor. Sandpaper on wood. Sandpaper on glass. Sandpaper on paper.

An hour later: minimal views. My mother’s shared it.

Sandpaper on sandpaper.

Suddenly, it’s not enough that I’ve made the thing. It’s not enough that I’ve made it skillfully. It’s not enough that I’ve taken a part in the communal experience of creation. Suddenly, I’m a small star in the constantly expanding universe. A star that will be pushed into oblivion and stepped on by other lost stars trying to throw themselves toward the center of a galaxy.

Release Burn keeps me up at night. Release Burn erodes my confidence. Tells me the thing I made is a gift for oblivion, not for humans.

I twist more. I try to dig down to the depths of what I’m feeling with others and get, “You should create just to create. Not to get recognition.”

I know that. That’s why I continue to create, because life beckons me to do it. Breathing has given me an ultimatum: “Create and breathe, or don’t create and suffocate.” I create because I love it, but I don’t want to create for oblivion.

I still hear: “Some maker you are. You should do it just because you love it.”

Sandpaper on pulp.

For me, the last four years have been an exercise in learning how to create for the lost stars. An exercise in using the oblivion to shape my understanding of how I create. With every non-view, or non-follower I gain, I practice telling myself that I am not a useless void. That I should still rejoice for the ability to make.

I try to reverse the Release Erosion process. Instead of letting the tension eat away at my soul, I try to redirect the erosion at the false lies that would have me shrivel into a creative raisin, and renounce the things I do, push them aside as a waste of time.

I want freedom from Release Erosion.

I want freedom from it before the day the universe decides that I should be closer to the galaxy center. I want to be a lost who’s orbit doesn’t depend on a singularity made out of high platform numbers, and well-shared creations.

Am I alone in wanting this? Are there any other lost stars?