By Cynthia deConinckSmith
What happens when you cross social yearning with a fictional case study?
Quarantine was hard on everyone. People started new hobbies like baking and watching new shows. Others gained odder hobbies, like running a cult-like blog and answering questions by channelling their inner narcissistic solipsist. This is exactly what Gracie Olson spent her time doing over the summer of Quarantine 2020.
Olson is your typical young adult. She’s in her last year of her psychology degree at The University of Georgia, she lives at home with her parents in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. And she does digital art commissions on the side to help pay for school. Once you get past all of this, that’s where you get to know the real Olson.
Twenty-year-old Olson created a small community that followed her for her online blog, now hidden and archived as a reminder of her 2020 summer, and specifically her portrayal of the horror character Patrick Hockstetter from Stephen King’s IT.
Patrick Hockstetter is one of the main antagonists. Most readers remember him for his disgusting hobbies of putting dead animals in a refrigerator, collecting dead flies in his pencil case and killing his brother because he thought his brother was going to be more powerful than himself.
Real fun guy, right?
Olson gained an interest in him not just because of that twisted ‘bad boy’ type, but because of his psyche. She became interested in his thought process. To explore it she created a blog where followers could ask the character questions and she drew him answering the questions the way she thought he would. This grew project to be something bigger than she had ever imagined.
Olson was able to give others an escape from their COVID-19 world and give them a new interesting ‘friend’.
Olson: When the pandemic started, my family was one of those families that took the pandemic really seriously. People were dying a lot around [Atlanta], so we were like, ‘we aren’t even leaving the house’. There was the group of people that were going out with masks and was vaccinated and all that, but we were the family that didn’t leave the house, period. We had groceries delivered. We were completely isolated. It was just me and my shiny new art tablet on the couch. And I was like, ‘how am I going to kill time?’ So, I took that as an opportunity to really start drawing seriously…I believe I started in May and I believe I closed the account in October. I’m pretty sure that was the timeline…It was a summer project. It…gave me a way to interact with people and draw constantly because I think at the peak of that account when I was paying attention, I was drawing that man [Patrick Hockstetter] for six hours a day, every day. That was a full-time job.
Interviewer: And at this point, you weren’t getting paid for that, as you are now.
Olson: I was not getting paid for that, that was fully a hobby. But, doing that, helped me develop the drawing skills I needed to get paid. So, thanks to Patrick, I can get commission work now. I owe him my job.
One of the main draws of the blog was how gory it could get and how Olson never seemed to stray away from a question. She entertained people sending her gory asks, sending asks of obscene requests they wanted to be done to them, and questions about Patrick's overall mental state. The odd blog attracted the odder parts of everyone and the curiosity of many.
The main draw of the blog for me, however, was how it changed Olson after creating it.
Below is an excerpt of the interview where we talk about just how much into character, she would go without realizing it and the effect it had on her thereafter.
Interviewer: So, you started Method Acting almost?
Olson: It was heavy method acting. Yeah. ‘Cause I would think about stuff for a really long time. People would send me a question and I would take like, a few hours to be like ‘Okay this is how I would respond to this. But how would [Patrick] respond to this? Where is the disagreement in the way we think?’ It led me to do a lot of research and it’s like, okay well, narcissists think like this. But if you push it a step further into solipsism, then, the approach would be different.
"I was basically living in this headspace of what would he think what would he do, and I started to notice myself acting like that."
Interviewer: And solipsism is believing you’re god and no one else is real, correct?
Olson: Yeah, it actually has roots in philosophy. It’s not even necessarily a mental disorder. People have been debating this as a reality. As people, we don’t accept that because we have morals, we have empathy for others. But I believe that if you have that solipsism ideology and you have narcissistic tendencies, then that would lead you to view the world in a completely different way where you are god and everything around you is just something to fuck with. You’re bored. You’re bored and everyone exists to entertain you.
Gracie told me that while doing this, she actually ended up changing her major at university from nursing to psychology as the deep diving she was doing was so intriguing to her. She was even ahead of her class at times as she had already done rather in-depth research on ways of thinking like solipsism and narcissism.
Interviewer: Did you notice any changes to your own psyche that you think, or even look back on and think, ‘oh, this is because I got too into it or didn’t pull myself back in soon enough’?
Olson: See, this is something I think about a lot, and it bothers me on some levels because I think I did take it too far. I was basically living in this headspace of what would he think what would he do, and I started to notice myself acting like that. I would use to take pictures of myself for reference, right? If I needed a pose, I would just take a picture of myself. And he is very scrawny and lanky, right? So, I would take pictures and I would be like ‘this isn’t quite right’ so then I would start getting on, like, I lost twenty pounds to make it short.
Interviewer: It essentially led to an eating disorder?
Olson: Yeah, it led to me not eating. And I don’t think that would have happened otherwise. But I am boarding underweight as of now. This is three years ago we are talking.
As the summer of 2019 turned into fall, the pressure of drawing without pay and the looming duties of school eventually made her shut down her blog, despite the cries and pleas of those who wanted her to continue drawing. She said she didn’t regret closing the blog and leaving that part of her behind. She had perfected her art and found a love for psychology through it.
Picture drawn by Gracie Olson of herself using her drawing tablet
to draw Patrick Hockstetter from Stephen King’s IT.
Cynthia enjoys dressing up her fuzzy little boy in various hats and doing large embroidery projects with little to no experience. She can usually be found in her room with her many plush friends and assorted knickknacks.