They say that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Maybe it does make you stronger, but it’s really going to piss you off first.
I don’t know where it came from or why it exists, but there is this…fairy tale, this adage, this meme that existed long before the word “meme” existed–about the starving, suffering artist. You know the one.
The guy who lives in squalor, he’s poor, he’s got relationship trouble or whatever–maybe he slices off an ear. His own or someone else’s, it doesn’t really matter.
What the hell is the reason?
Part of it, I know, is that many artists *feel* they need to be in turmoil. Most of that is just angst and bullshit, brought upon themselves by poor decision-making. You don’t have to be smart to be an artist, and most of them aren’t.
And because artists are susceptible to suggestion, by and large they buy into the cultural stereotype of how artists are perceived to be, and it becomes a circular self-fulfilling prophesy.
Unless you’re too old and jaded to buy into it.
The starving artist thing–for one, do I look like I’m starving?
But it makes me wonder: did I, for all of these years, forsake pursuing the purity of my art in favor of a more comfortable life, i.e., a job, a career, a family, a house, and so forth?
Maybe I can chalk all of that up to “life experience” and research. Almost fifty years of it, man, and I’ve done a lot of things. Even as tepid and timid as I am, as fearful as I am of taking chances, I’ve had some wonderful, amazing, scary times in my life.
So what am I supposed to do with it now? Well, I guess I’m supposed to get off my ass and write. Or sit my ass down at the keyboard and write. If only someone would take dictation for me, transcribe everything, edit it, and then go ahead and get it published for me. Then direct-deposit the check.
So that’s where I am now–I’m having more life experience. I’m beginning to live the dream of the starving artist.
And I use the term “artist” fairly loosely, and I don’t think I actually mean it. I don’t know-maybe I do. I don’t know if you know any other artists, but I’ll tell you something about the ones I do know, or the ones I do know *of*:
There is a fair amount of conceit going on in their brain.
Exhibit A, most of the ridiculous actors in Hollywoodland that is so pretentious and full of themselves they have to wear sunglasses to look in the mirror.
Exhibit B, anyone who creates something–writing, painting, performance art, or underarm farts–ultimately wants it to be seen and appreciated by an audience.
Hell, everyone wants a LIKE on their status updates. But this goes beyond that. This is *more.* Artists are vampires that feed on the accolades of people. They need to be loved and appreciated to survive.
Oh, good Lord. I think this is getting out of hand. First, some people are going to read this and think I mean me. And I do. Some people are going to read this and think I am painting all artists unfairly with this broad brush.
And I am, but not unfairly. If you have an artist as a friend or in the family, and you think they aren’t like this, either you’re delusional or they hide it well, or both.
And if you are an artist and claim not to be like this, they you are either completely delusional or you aren’t really an artist.
But I don’t mean any of this in a derogatory way. Mostly. Maybe you perceive the connotation to be thus, but I had to lay that groundwork to complete my thesis, such as it is. What’s my point? Here’s my point:
If you create a piece of…something, but no one ever sees it, is it art?
Much like a tree falling in the forest–it has to be seen and heard, or read, or somehow experienced.
Creating is what artists do. We take what we have–experience, ability, popsicle sticks–and turn them into something whose sole purpose is to be appreciated. To be looked at, listened to, felt, or however else the media is intended to be experienced. And I say “media” on purpose, because art is not just a form of expression, it is a form of communication.
And that’s why I don’t mean it in a derogatory fashion when I talk about the narcissistic nature of artists. It is the purest form of communication we know, the giving of ourselves. It’s what we do, it’s in our nature, and good or bad, we can’t help it. We have something to say, something to share–something to show the world–
So here I am now, living the life of an artist. I’m too poor to go down to the coffee shop and sit and write–and I swear to God I can’t get a cup of coffee from Starbucks that I can stand. Instead I sit up at night, or in the morning, or in the afternoon–whenever I have alone time–and I write.
Right now I’m in the tragically hip phase, where I am hyper-aware of my situation and how I am perceived, where I talk about writing and write about writing without actually creating anything. That’s right–what you’ve just read is little more than nonsense, barely above typing practice, and if it is anything useful at all it serves as sort of a Zen clearing of the mind, a rinsing of the palette so that I can get on with the actual work of creating.
I hope it works.
The life of a writer is a fair bit of fiction, highly romanticized and not at all like what it is portrayed as in fiction or movies or television.
That seems kind of ironic, seeing as how those media are created by the duplicitous lying writers themselves. The bastards.
Yeah, I’m one of them–or I consider myself one, anyway. Writing is one of the few occupations in which the only credentials you need are self-delusion. You only have to *say* you are a writer, and BOOM! – you’re a writer.
What do you do?
I’m…I’m a writer.
Have you written anything I would know?
I don’t know–have you been in a bathroom stall lately?
Well, what have you published?
Oooohhhh…Published. Published is a whole different matter. Published separates the true artists from the odorous masses. Being published is what leads to fame–and more importantly–to being paid.
Blogs are like assholes. Everyone has one and no one gives a shit about yours.
The Internet, and the disease which sprang from them called blogging, has been a boon to the hipster-types and other disaffected youth who feel that they are artists–
No, LISTEN to me: They really *feel* like they are artists. They have something to say. Some unique perspective on life. Some inexorable, undeniable truth about society beats mightily within their individual chest cavities but collectively seeks the light. A story to be told. A narrative to be read. A song to be sung. A limerick to rhyme.
Maybe I’m talking shit about all of the talent-less assholes out there vying for your attention, and maybe I’m one of them as well. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was fourteen, I think. And again since I was sixteen. And again when I was 19.
And so on.
Here it is over thirty years later, and I’m not really a writer in the strict biblical sense. I mean, I’ve written–Lordy, has I written!–but I’ve yet to be published in any meaningful sense that I can point to. other than this fucking blog.
The surest way to keep a secret is to publish it on a blog that no one reads.
All these things I talk about I am also guilty of, and I know it. I’m perfectly at ease being a hypocrite.
I’ve made a lot of false starts–and here I am yet again writing about another one–but usually it’s because life gets in the way. Life. A job. A family. Paying bills. Crises after bloody crises. But I have poured my heart on my blog. The bare, naked truth. Within reason.
They (the various experts in the field) say that you have to write for yourself. Sounds like bullshit to me. They also say you have to know your audience, and write for them. They seem a bit fucking bipolar, if you ask me.
Well, I have done both. I have written for myself, and I have written for an audience that was occasionally there. I wrote the most when I was going through a tumultuous period in my life, and it helped me to get it out. That was the part that was for me.
And then I managed to get some feedback from a few devoted fans on the internet, and they liked what I had writ. That part was for them.
That part was for me also, because nothing makes you feel good like getting accolades from random people for something you created. It nurtures the narcissist within.
Being a writer, or trying to write, or trying to continue writing, or having an eye toward eventual publication…is a lifelong dream of mine. It’s also like a hobby that I don’t get to do. Like the guy who is obsessed with golf, but works 80 hours a week and never gets to play.
I feel your pain, bro.
I can’t sit here and say that I’m going to start writing now, because I’ve done that so many times before it’s not even funny. It’s ridiculous. I’m a fucking tease. My brain keeps teasing my heart and saying it’s going to give it what it wants–
But never does.
So I’m not going to do that. I have a book I need to work on. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. I have 47 other books to work on. Maybe I will, maybe fuck you.
But I do have this. I have this blog, this god forsaken hole in the Internet that I’ve laid claim to. You can go back and see all that I have written, and all that I have gone through, and it is an abundance of life experience.
I’m going through something now–I’m out of a job. And I appear to have time to write about it, because–once again–I’m out of a fucking job.
So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m getting back to my roots. My blog roots. Bloots. It’ll be funny, it’ll be sad, it’ll be at once bitter-sweet and ridiculous, because that’s my wheelhouse.
I recently watched six seasons of the show “Californication,” virtually back to back. Of course there is an abundance of sex and drug use and nudity. Still, I identify with the main character. Hank Moody is a writer, and he is haunted by the choices he has made, and these ghosts cause him to continue to have deficiency in decision making, and he left as the product of the life he has led.
But he is a writer, so he gets to be all soul-searching and introspective about it.
At the very least, that’s what I get to do also.
I haven’t been here in a long, long time. But if we’re talking about ancient Sumer, no one has…
The Book of Nezzrahem
1. In the seventy-third-plus-fourteen year of the Uruk Kingdom, in the time after the planting but before the ministering, in the region near the city-state of Larsa, but south, near the river valley, which is as fertile and a gift from the gods, there was a village with no name;
2. For this village, which hath no name, was the place wherefrom the kings’ armies would take their supplies; the farmed goods which had been harvested, and the meat from the cattle they produced, any metal goods and carts, and of course, the women, for the Kings’ Armies required the best of all things the Valley of the Kings could produce, and this village with no name hath a reputation for producing beautiful creatures, which were taken for the pleasure and solace of the Kings’ Armies.
3. And it came to pass that while working the field, the family of Nezzrahem was visited by a group of heavenly travelers.
4. The travelers had the appearance of unworldly dress, and emerged from a shining enclosed chariot, pulled by neither man nor beast, but instead seemed to be powered by the gods; it was a half-complement of creatures, numbering 8, and their countenance and mannerisms showed them to be not of this ether.
5. For though they spaketh the language, it was halting and guarded, with strange usage of words, and odd pronunciation; nevertheless they communicated with the family of Nezzrahem, and told of their mission.
6. But the Nezzrahem family did disagree on what the angelic visitors said their mission was, for their individual understanding was different; Father Neb-On-Nezzra saith that their mission was to bring the power of the gods to the Kings’ Armies, and glorious weapons heretofore unseen by man;
7. But Daru-Le, chief wife of Neb-On, claimed that their mission was to bring to pass a bounteous harvest;
8. And Evi-Der, the middle wife, said the mission of the angels was to protect the newborn children from disease, and from the Maelstrom of the Kings, the annual culling of the children.
9.And te-Delri, the junior wife, was forbade to speak, as is law. And thusly were the children ignored, for though they had experienced the same event, their words and their minds were weak and could not be trusted.
10. But the eldest son, Neb-On-tok-Nezzra, having reached the Age of Ritual and was now preparing to join the Kings’ Armies after the harvest was fulfilled, and was considered a man, and as such lay claim to the right to speak, and thusly did relay his account of the vision of angels.
11. And it came to pass that Neb-On-tok-Nezzra told his story, far and wide; and his story did get repeated, and his story passed from village to town to city-state, even unto reaching the ears of the Counsel of the Kings.
12. And it came to pass that the Kings then did call for young Neb-On-tok-Nezzra to come unto the Palace of the Kings, and tell his tale; and he did.
13. Wherefore Neb-On-tok-Nezzra spaketh before the kings, and told of the day the angels came;
14. He said there was a blinding, holy light, which filled the sky;
15. He said that instantly, there was the chariot, shining and glowing like the sun, enclosed, made of some unknown heavenly material;
16. He said that it opened mysteriously, and the eight holy creatures disembarked;
17. He said that it was difficult to understand them at first, and they he; but after a fashion, their words flowed effortlessly;
18. He said the heavenly creatures were there on a mission; that thusly they had traveled a long distance through both time and space, which made no sense; for how does one travel through time?
19. He said they were there to study and to learn, and watch how we as children of the Valley of the Kings lived our lives;
20. He said that when they were done, they would return to the time and place from whence they came;
21. And the Counsel of Kings, upon hearing this tale, did confer with one another; for such a thing as they had never heard before, and likewise wished to never hear again.
22. Because all power of heaven and earth resides with the Counsel of Kings; wherefore if such a thing existed beyond their scope it must therefore be removed;
23. Wherefore all evidence of the visitation of the Angels had taken leave with them; nothing remained that showed it had ever taken place.
24. Wherefore the King of the city-state of Babyl spaketh, saying, “If these then are the only witnesses to this event, wherefore should we not remove them, to hasten the departure of this abominable story from our eyes?
25. And it came to pass that the other kings agreed; wherefore the King of the city-state of Umma bade the counsel well and departed.
26. And it came to pass that the King of the city-state of Umma collected his generals in Bad Tibira, and forthwith they rode;
27. And it came to pass that the Kings’ Armies marched to Larsa, and continued south;
28. And it came to pass that the Kings’ Armies marched to the village with no name, the home of the Nezzrahem clan;
29. And it came to pass that the Kings’ Armies did burn the village, and the fields, and the killed the men, and the women, and the children.
30. And so it shall be that this record carved shall be hidden, and shall remain the only witness to the slaughter of the people of the village with no name.