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Welcome to Riding the Dragon

Hello, world.

Riding the Dragon is an idea I’ve had for a while, based on my own experiences as an independent, an intellectual, and a creator—experiences which are not unique to myself. I have struggled for many years with the joy and torment of this life, and wanted to create a space to bring together people who likewise feel that they are fulfilling their life’s purpose, but sometimes at a great personal cost.

To live a life in pursuit of creating something entirely new — and what’s more, something that nobody has specifically asked you to create — is to live a life that binds itself with uncertainty and risk. While the “creative genius” is put onto a pedestal by contemporary pop culture, that vision somehow finds a way of romanticizing or even embracing the distressed emotional states that, when lived in the first person, are far from glamorous.

The reality is that the ability to produce truly new work is not akin to drawing ideas up from a bottomless well of bliss, but rather, is more like birthing occasional coherence from a maelstrom of many complex and confusing experiences.

Most of the artists and intellectuals who I know, myself included, struggle to understand themselves, their work, and their relationship with their work. They have bound themselves up with an untamed beast, who sometimes gets the better of them. Their ideas can grow beyond their capabilities, their talents can become unwieldy, their intelligence turns itself against them. This fact is typically a source of further angst, anxiety, depression or self-doubt.

Yet, the impetus to produce something new cannot be broken in like a house pet.

Over time, I’ve come to think of this act of mastering (or even just surviving) the creative process as “riding the dragon.” The mind grows quickly, sometimes beyond the body’s control. The spirit can have urges that do not fit inside the smallness of our biology. To realize our own potential, we cannot kill the dragon, nor do we want to tame it. The beast must be allowed to live according to its nature. To harness its potential without getting ourselves killed, we must learn, with respect and strength, to ride the dragon.

Katherine Oktober Matthews ( is an artist and analyst based in The Netherlands. She writes and edits extensively in the field of art, is the author of Unique: Making Photographs in the Age of Ubiquity, and founder of Riding the Dragon.

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