“What’s it matter what I think, if you’re truly a painter you’re going to paint no matter what I say…” Alfred Molina as Diego Rivera in the movie Frida.
There is that, isn’t there. What does it matter what anyone else thinks of what you paint, play, write, or whatever? If it’s what you truly believe you’re meant to be doing, you’re going to do it come hell or high water.
True, I mean there is some truth in that statement. Right. Everyday I’m going to sit down at this thing and tap, tap, tap, my fingers across the keyboard. The finger dance of word creation. I can look down at those ten appendages and seriously believe it’s them doing the creation.
They are so far away from my head and brain. What do they have to do with me and what I’m thinking anyway? In fact, I bet if I ever learned to shut off my brain completely and left everything to my fingers, they’d carry me to Nobles, Bookers, and Governor General awards in a trice. But the head always wants to get involved.
You could be typing up a storm, thunder and lightning threatening to melt the wires on the laptop, and slam. The Voice in your head says, does this sound OK? Or, whom do you think you’re kidding with this shit?
Ah yes, the old ‘I’m my own worst enemy’ trick. Little terrorists setting off bombs of self doubt intent on destroying confidence and freezing creativity. I’ve tried suspending their liberties – my own version of a homeland security act. The unfortunate result was that everything became as interesting as cream of wheat.
Creativity is one of those double-edged sword gifts storytellers are so fond of talking about. They usually show up in ancient epic type tales and run like; this will give you the power over lesser mortals, but your importance will leave you impotent. Your hard on for power will disable your ability to get a hard on…
Well maybe not exactly like that but you know what I mean, sort of, maybe? With creativity comes vivid imagination, with vivid imagination comes the ability to see all that could possibly be wrong with what it is your doing. So while your fingers do their thing about bringing your vision to life on paper or on screen, your mind is creating all the reasons for it being crap.
My personal favourite is: who the fuck do you think you are having anything to say that would possibly interest anyone? Or how about, did you think that up all by yourself (sarcasm optional)?
There are days when I just want to either get the serrated ice cream scoop out of the kitchen drawer and get the lobotomy over with; well it’s either that or dive, plunge, fall, plummet, ascend, or just fucking get off the goddamned wagon with a vengeance. But it’s funny how addictive sobriety becomes, so that’s not an option either.
Well there’s always the rusty axe in the cupboard if it all gets too bad. But self-decapitation is difficult at the best of times, and these for sure aren’t those. I’d probably either end up with a close shave or the Van Gogh look.
Oh, stop your snivelling, you whinging fuck. I heard that, and yeah I know it sounds like self-pitying, I’m such a struggling artiste shit, but you know what? I don’t care. Everyone else gets to complain about the government, or the people who are against the government, their jobs, their lack of jobs, or whatever other topic that is all-consuming to them and that’s not considered abnormal or pathetic.
In fact, people go on and on demanding the right to say what ever the fuck they want to no matter how hateful or derogatory, but let one artist open his or her mouth and try to talk about the struggle to create, and not only does the shit hit the fan, but so does the colon and the rest of the goddamned insides of the fucking cow that the manure came out of.
Not as if we didn’t have enough of our own insecurities, we’ve got to deal with people who fucking depend on us everyday, giving us less respect than cockroaches. Who writes your precious television for you, from the news to whatever reality show is on this week? Who builds the sets and creates the special effects for the movies that go boom?
No matter that they are mostly just so much schlock, somebody had to have an idea, an inspiring thought, and then the skills to take it beyond that to make a full feature from it. What’s that you say? “Anybody could do that”?
Well no, they couldn’t have, because they didn’t. Should I spell that out for you? If anybody could have done it, than they would have, because they would have had the concept, and the balls to see it through to completion. The very fact that not everybody did it is what makes a particular work special, no matter how prosaic and simple it may seem to the viewer.
Those four words, “anybody could do that” only prove how difficult it is for an artist to be considered relevant in North American society. The arts are a frill, something you can hang in the living room as decoration to match the colour scheme picked out by Martha et. al. We must be the only society on the planet who can say how important their culture is without the arts entering into the equation at all.
Back to the keyboard where this all started. Bertolt Brecht, the playwright, used to ask his performers before each show what expectations they had about the audience. He was trying to make them remember whom their performances were for. What expectations I could have for potential readers are hard to fathom, when the majority is conditioned not to want anything “artsy”
Having been raised in the same society I have heard the same things, it’s not something that responsible people do for a living. Oh it’s a nice hobby, but you’d better have something to fall back on when it doesn’t work out. Well, thanks for the vote of confidence, everybody.
I think it’s fucking amazing that any work of art gets produced under those conditions. What would happen if everybody listened to that? Think about that reality. If nobody had the bravery to go against the current of society’s beliefs, think of what would be absent from your life.
Is it any wonder that when I sit down to write, aside from editorial type content, that self doubt whispers, hell, shouts, in my ears? Not only am I fighting any personal demons of self doubt, but the condemnation of society for doing something as frivolous as writing poetry or a piece of fiction.
People wonder why it is that artists appear different, are anti-social and often outrageous. It’s because you’ve made us that way. We would all love to be treated just like everyone else who goes to work everyday to make money to support our families.
People just can’t get their heads around the fact that being any type of artist is work, and difficult work at that. Whether a screenwriter desperately trying to finish by his or her deadline, or the novelist recreating the vision in their head with words, the work is as demanding as any other profession.
The funny thing is, that despite all that, I’m never going to stop doing this. Like the quote at the beginning of this said “if you’re truly a painter you’re going to paint no matter what anybody says.” I’m going to write no matter what anybody says, including that voice that’s loudest in my head, my own.
Despite indifference bordering on antipathy, there are people from all walks of life who everyday get up and take the long walk to work to their keyboard. Physically, it may be less distance to travel than the average commute, but psychologically, it can be the longest walk of your life.