Who here has undertaken a massive yet esoteric creative project?

This spring, I started writing what will probably be a book. But it’s not just any book—it’s a book that only a handful of people I know could really understand. My sister and I created some characters back during our adolescence and we’ve bandied them about over the past twenty years, making up stories about them, but seldom writing anything down.

That’s changing. I’ve written a couple of stories based on these characters, though my most successful undertaking altered them enough so that you didn’t have to be in on the joke to understand the story.

This new story is different. It’s a sequel of sorts to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which is centered around the characters we created. Some of the stuff I’ve written would be understandable to a regular audience—like the adult Veruca Salt’s interview on the Charlie Rose Show, which I’m pretty proud of. But the scene where the angel fish breaks into my old high school and frames a couple of clowns as the culprits would just take too much explaining. Probably.

At the rate this thing is going, it’s going to be pretty long. I might be able to salvage it for some other projects, but for the most part, it’s to amuse my sister, my other sister, a friend of mine, my girlfriend, and myself. Sometimes I feel like I should be concentrating my energies on more useful projects, but other times I feel that this one should be classed as useful.

So how many other people do this sort of thing? Who else invests lots of time in ventures with a very limited audience which will probably have no commercial value whatsoever? Or am I alone in my insanity?

As a teenager and young twentysomething I spent many happy hours recording tapes of myself pretending to be a fictional DJ on a “pirate radio station off the coast of antarctica.” The sole intended audience for these tapes was myself and my best friend from High School. In the end I made about 20 ninety minute tapes, each with several spoken segments, most of which were completely improvised on the spot, interspersed with my favorite tracks from an extensive vinyl collection.

Each tape took me a minimum of 3 hours to record.

I still have the tapes, but because they contain so many blatant drug references, I can’t even play them for my kids.
More recently (like, 5 years ago), I wrote a baseball book called The Fantasy Baseball Hall of Fame told as if certain Fantasy Baseball point stats were the true measure of a player and a team. It went year by year, with champions, MVPs and Cy Young award winners in each league plus a synopsis of the season, as well as accounts of Fantasy Hall of Fame inductions. I worked on it in my spare time for about nine months, and all told I probably put about 100 hours of work into it. Did I mention I also put some time into building a website devoted to the subject as well?

In the end, after I re-read what I had written for the tenth time or so, and tried to write a book proposal, I decided no one other than myself could possibly be interested in this trash, and I abandoned it completely. I just remembered it now, after not even thinking about it for a good three years.

I have just been suckered into writing a 100-page booklet about our town’s 200-year-old Little Red Schoolhouse (it was built in 1893, so I think their math is a little off). They’ve dumped reams of books, notebooks, newspaper and magazine clippings, transcribed interviews of ancient students, and info about cultural and educational history from 1805 till now in Northern New Jersey.

How do I get myself into these things?

The closet I got is the play I wrote. I was a senior in high school at the time, and there was a student run theater group I was a part of, and one of our big things was that EVERYTHING was done by the students, even the plays themselves. So every year a fwe of us would write plays. We would pick a few to perform on stage for the community, and the best one we would do at the state-wide theatre competition.

Mine was performed for the community performance, and again in a school-wide assembly, but not at the competition, because it didn’t meet the length requirement.

At the time, I thought it was genius…looking back at it now (well, not physically, since I lost all copies, both actual and electronic,) it’s not that great. The only real positive is (IMO) great characters. But it’s basically a series of one liners with no real plot.

I’m a hundred pages into my novel, though it isn’t very esoteric.

I did/am doing this now.

It all started when I was born, and it will end when I die. The only steady audience member is me, although occassionally others will watch for a while. I don’t really care who sees it, or who likes it, but I am flattered when someone else likes it.

I hope to someday find a cool woman who is also working on her own personal esoteric creative life project that I like, and then we can work as a team.


As a more concrete example, I write songs. I am always flattered when people like them, but I really only write them for myself. Sort of me creating my own personal soundtrack. I go whole months sometimes without listening to anyone else’s music but my own.

I would be knocked on my ass if someday some one compared my creative output to Henry Darger or Jandek, tho.

Well, I did NaNoWriMo last year, and without some massive editing and/or excising of crap parts, that novel’s between me and my hard drive. It was a lot of fun, though! And I got to do some Wars of the Roses research that has served me well since then.

For the last six years, I have been restoring old Beatles bootlegs for collectors. There’s a whole area that’s daily life for a small segment of the population, but nonexistent to the rest of the world! People get their best digital recording of old vinyl bootlegs to me, and I remove all the scratches and noise and fix them up as new, and return them. As far as I know, nobody else is doing it. I get rave reviews on my restorations. I get to preserve bits and pieces of history in a highly specialized field, for other people in that field - nobody else knows or cares.

Just thought I’d mention that anyone who is drawn to a thread about “massive yet esoteric creative projects” should definitely watch In the Realms of the Unreal, a documentary about Henry Darger (mentioned by Snowboarder Bo above). Darger was a reclusive janitor who, upon his death, left behind a 15,000-page novel (the longest ever written?), a 5,000-page autobiography, and over 300 paintings that were up to 12 feet long.

I just saw it last night, so I’ve had Darger on the brain all day; it’s one of those movies.

As for me, I wrote a long series of interrelated plays, poems, and short stories that I never let anyone read, beginning in college and ending about five years ago. I destroyed them all when they were done, for which I am now, of course, kicking myself. Not that it was any good, which it definitely was not, but I’d be curious to go back and see what I wrote during my twenties.

I thought I had written a review of In The Realms Of The Unreal back when it came out on DVD, but apparently I just thought it.

I did write a review of Jandek On Corwood tho, and I am immensely pleased that it graces the film’s main page on IMDB.

Just in case anyone is interested in these guys, they are the 2 biggest unknown artists I know of… and the weird and I have this cosmic attraction to each other.


Last week some of my friends and I began writing Turok: The Novelization. What this is, is a transciption of the game “Turok - Dinosaur Hunter” for Nintendo 64. One of us would play the game while another, with a laptop, typed down everything that happened in the game. So far we have ten pages (single spaced) written.

A typical paragraph might go like this: “I climed up the stairs and killed two men with my pistol. I picked up three gold triangles. I killed a raptor. I walked up another set of stairs into an Aztec-style temple with carvings of faces on the wall. There were two men hurling grenades at me from a ledge. I killed them both with my shotgun, then jumped into a portal…”

After we write each page or so, we have the text-to-speech program on the computer read it out loud to us, while we listen to it and laugh hysterically.

You may be wondering if this project was influenced in any way by drugs. The answer is YES!

I don’t know if these are quite esoteric, I am not a writer like most of you but I am an artist so my need for creativity never ends.

Currently I am working on restoring/remodeling a dollhouse my grandfather made for me when I was 4. After years of neglect and storage in unfavorable conditions, I thought I’d redo it. It will take a long time, it’s very expensive and labor intensive. It will probably take me quite a few years to get it done.

I also do some scrapbooking. I’ve been working on my wedding scrapbook for the past 6 months on and off.

I’m also one of those people who are almost never satisfied with what I do. When I get done, I always think of better ways I could have worked on it, other materials I could have used, etc. You’re always your worst critic I guess. But these are mine and although no one else sees the value in them, they have huge sentimental value to me.

I’ve written plenty of things that saw a limited audience – I wrote, produced, directed, and (ultimately and reluctantly) acted in a science fiction radio mystey play (One of my actors quit the day before production). I had no money for this, but I got together actors, a crew, finagled a studio, and taped and edited the damned thing. Then I managed to get an hour of time to broadcast it. (It was 3-4 AM between Sunday and Monday. But I wasn’t about to complain. Radio time is gold, and nobody wants to give away any of it. Getting an hour was no piece of cake). When the broadcast didn’t go out, I drove to the studio and stood over the tech who didn’t want to run it while the whole thing ran.
I don’t know if anybody ever heard it (I put up posters all over town, but who pays attention to those?). It was an immense amount of trouble. I now have infinite respect for Ed Wood, Jr. Make fun of Plan Nine all you want, but he fought for and got his own personal vision up on screen, and I now appreciate what a grind that is.

I’d do it again.

Years later, without any good reason to, and with no real qualifications for it, I wrote a book on mythology. Got Oxford University Press to publish it, too. I have yet to break even on it.
But I have three more books in the queue.

I started building the 1/8th scale model of a Citroen Traction Avant produced by Heller. 1046 pieces, none of which fit particularly well. After starting, I realized that I’d have to reengineer most of the working parts and scratchbuild several difficult bits to get the sort of final quality I wanted. Right now, I’m stalled, with most of the chassis done; but it’s still in the queue and I have hopes of finishing it someday.
I’ve only ever seen one completed, and that was by a co-worker, who is a rabid Citroen buff–and his has a lot of rough edges. (Actually, seeing his was very useful–it let me know what the drawbacks of the kit are, and figure out what I’d have to rework. Also, we weighed it, so I had loads and could redesign the working torsion bar suspension)

After writing short stories in my youth, abandoning a novel at 20, failed attempts at poetry, and a 7 year dry spell, a friend and I are writing a screenplay that has been in the making for 9 months. It’s a long distance collaboration but it’s working out great and we hope to start our rewrite by the end of August.
After the blood, sweat and tears we hope to actually sell it but if not, I can rest easy knowing that my writer’s block has finally ended.

In high school, I wrote parody songs AND a “Left Behind” type novella (except I do the whole seven years from Rapture to Second Coming in 50 pages!). Some bad poetry during my college years. But in the years after grad school, I’ll occasionally go on a poetry jag when inspired by the right woman, I’ve written six kinda dark Jesus stories, a stage/tele-play on the Mary Magdalene story, a novella from Renfield’s viewpoint, and co-produced a video romantic melodrama, which I only script doctored but did not author.

Thank God I have a regular job to subsidize that video!

For a limited audience with no commercial value this spring and summer I’ve been building a castle.

I play paintball most every Saturday morning. We turned the back corner of my friend’s old family farm into a plaground. About 20 acres of scrub and woods. I cleared out an acre and started building. The idea is to spend no money doing this. I’ve begged, borrowed and stole a couple of hundred pallets and other wood and started building. The central keep is three stories tall and two of the four walls are servicable. I think this will take another two years to get it where I want it. I’m overbuilding a lot of it to keep it safe.

All for my own satisfaction, maybe the enjoyment of a few others as well.

Well - the act of forming and managing a working mid-life crisis rock band certainly feels like a massive yet esoteric creative project.

it is like a group marriage or something, with internecine, Machiavellian internal conflicts, constance outside pressures (families who don’t want us to practice so much, idiot bar owners, fundraising friends who want us to play for free, etc.). It is like an ongoing journey, or the Myth of Sisyphus or something. But a lot of fun when it all clicks into place!

fishbicycle - wow, that sounds fascinating. I would LOVE to get access to any of those bootlegs that are shareable. I am 100% naive about this, so don’t know if asking for copies is inappropriate or rude, but if there is a chance, boy am I asking!! I would be happy to email you (or you are welcome to email me) if it makes sense. Thanks either way.

For the past five years or so I have created, designed and manufactured Wow Cards. So far as I know, they are unique.

This is the easiest way to explain what they are

Coming up with a new design is an intense creative challenge, and can take several months for a really intricate design. Once I’ve finalised each specific design, the time is takes to make each given card varies from under 10 minutes to around 45.

This is an ongoing creative task, and it won’t be complete until I have hatched 54 different designs (I only have about 30 at the moment, and some of those are ones I’m not happy with and would like to replace).




I am at work and can’t explore your site in detail. Are they for sale? Are there specific rules for their construction, e.g., you have to use the material of one card only (i.e., no cutting pieces from one card to fit into another) or you have to be able to create them with one continuous cut - anything like that?

What prompted you to do them other than their Escher-like coolness?