A Deep, Cleansing Breath. With Menthol.September 19, 2013 at 10:54 PM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
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.