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Maps to Nowhere

The same day that I was telling a friend about the Wolvog’s imaginary land from childhood (and she was telling me about the one her daughter invented), I read about Jerry Gretzinger’s map.  Jerry started drawing the map of his imaginary land in 1963, and it is now 3200 panels.  Bright hues, tiny towns, and sometimes spaces eaten up by voids.  It’s a living, breathing space that doesn’t exist.

I also had an imaginary world when I was in elementary school that I still think about.  I kept an imaginary friend there, and we wrote imaginary letters back and forth to each other as pen pals, detailing our day-to-day lives.  My imaginary friend found my life fascinating because it was so different from her own, but… you know… vice versa.  She lived in a fishing village and had already been put to work in the local economy, assisting on a fishing boat.  Hard life for an imaginary elementary school girl.

I think I like Jerry’s story so much and looking at his map because it was created for his own pleasure.  It has since gone on display because other people are interested in it, too, but the project, at its heart, is a private one.  Even if no one ever looked at it — and for the first 20 years, no one did look at it — he would continue drawing it and thinking about it and bringing the world into existence.

I feel like we’ve moved into a time period where most people take a “why bother” attitude when it comes to creation.  If no one is going to see it/read it/like it, why bother making it?  I see posts all the time saying the person is stopping their blog because no one is reading it anyway.

I guess Jerry’s map is a tangible reminder of why we should bother.  Why we should write down words even if no one else reads them or draw pictures even if no one else sees them.  We should do it for the pleasure of entertaining ourselves, of bringing something into existence that would never exist if not for our imagination.

There’s a divide between what we make for public consumption vs. what we make solely for ourselves, and it’s skewed heavily towards sharing.  With limited hours in a day, why make something that only reaches inward if you can use those creation minutes to make something that reaches outward; that may bring accolades or attention or connection?

Do you think you could take real joy in designing your own world, knowing you’d never share it with anyone, or do you get more pleasure from releasing it into the world and seeing how the world receives it?

10 comments

1 nicoleandmaggie { 08.09.16 at 9:38 am }

Thinking on this, I find I am an exhibitionist. Even if that just means sharing with my husband the extremely creative dream my subconscious came up with last night. (There was a pilot for a tv show called “Spockticus” involved. Though the network wanted to change it from a Vulcan drama to a romantic farce called “Cupid” instead.)

And that, I suppose, is why I blog instead of journal.

2 Kate { 08.09.16 at 11:20 am }

Oh. My. Gosh. I fell down the rabbit hole with Jerry’s maps. This oddly reminds me of tabletop games. My husband loves maps, he was always the map maker for our games, he is going to flip out when I show him this. We are from Grand Rapids, Michigan, although we moved south several years ago. I wish we could visit and go see his exhibit at Art Prize. Long winded way to say thanks!

To answer your question, I would share my works with a select few, and let them convince me to share with the world. Or not 🙂

3 Cristy { 08.09.16 at 5:09 pm }

I’m reminded of Tolkien and the world he created with this map.

Like you, I also created my own imaginary world. Granted, it was a patchwork of worlds created by other authors, so it wasn’t de novo, but it was my safe place where I could go and be who I wanted to be without criticism. And almost no one (besides Grey and now you as well and anyone else reading the comments) knew about this. It was my secret.

So yes, I would still create it. But that’s because of what it was to me and what it added to my life.

4 Mali { 08.09.16 at 7:54 pm }

My imaginary world was the real world – even when I was young, I would imagine being out in the big wide world I used to play at a creek, where pools of water were the Atlantic and Pacific, different islands were different continents and countries, all of which I wanted to visit one day.

I’m a huge fan of imagination, and the private and amazing lives we live and places we go in our heads.

5 sharah { 08.09.16 at 9:37 pm }

Imma just gonna leave this here for you …
http://www.artimaps.com/gallery.html

(he’s a local artist, and it’s so cool to see his studio!)

6 torthuil { 08.09.16 at 10:48 pm }

I had an imaginary world as a child, but it was shared and co-created with my brothers, so a bit different. We have tried to explain it to people sometimes but i think only we can ever fully understand it. I agree that you can tell when the someone has created something for their own pleasure, not for consumption or not only for consumption. I too thought of Tolkein and the immensely pleasurable feeling of play I get reading his books. (Rowling too). I love things that exist for no other reason than the joy they bring to someone. I love doing useless creative things, they are hugely satisfying. (Useless things often end up having a purpose, but the initial impulse is for pleasure alone.) I do like to share though. If I think of my writing in particular, writing for an audience gives it a different more interesting flavour, like cooking with salt or spices. If I’m writing only “for myself” I can write the same thing over and over again. That’s the main reason I moved from journaling to blogging: I got tired of writing the same journal entries over and over. Especially when the fertility stuff took over a lot of my consciousness: it got really tedious. Adding readers mixed things up more.

7 Lori Lavender Luz { 08.10.16 at 12:15 pm }

Not a world, but definitely other stuff. I like the process of painting pottery, though very few people ever see my work. I do like the public part of blogging, and of writing for both inward and outward purposes.

8 Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life { 08.14.16 at 3:59 am }

This wasn’t the case when I was in school and forced to socialize with humans (totally happy to socialize with animals all day), but now that my chronic pain keeps me tethered home most of the time I prefer at least a little release into the wild for some validation or response, and hopefully praise.

It’s probably why blogging works so well for me, it’s limited socializing on my terms!

9 loribeth { 08.16.16 at 5:43 pm }

I can kind of relate. I used to write stories & draw elaborate floor plans for the characters’ homes.

10 tasivfer { 08.22.16 at 9:42 pm }

I love maps, so thank you for showing me this world!

I’ve been creating things lately – knitting projects and quilts. I love creating them, and I also love giving them as surprises. But the creating is the important thing for me.

My blog is for me. Whether or not anyone ever visited it or not, it would still be for me. Occasionally I hear from people who have found it helpful, which is lovely – I recently had tears in my eyes after a brief chat with someone thanking me for it – however it’s for me.

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