(I recently reread something I’d written after my first book, years and years ago. I found it interesting so I thought I’d reprint it here… after my 9th book that remains under the underground and I remain a wannabe)
I guess what got me thinking about things, as much as any one thought is responsible for another, is the discomfort I feel when I don’t like the art of a person I respect. Could be a musician or a writer or a painter, doesn’t really matter. Just someone communicating something, putting themselves out there. I always feel like there is something lacking in me if I can’t appreciate it when I know the person, I know where it’s originating and it’s organic and sincere and I really want to embrace it.
But I can’t.
I try and fake it sometimes but most times I just don’t like it and it rattles around in my head and annoys me.
Then I go through this big soul-searching thing which never yields anything worthwhile. Is the artist just a vessel for me to store all these attribute I want to exist outside of myself? Typically I’d would phrase that as an either/or scenario but I honestly couldn’t come up with anything quickly to follow the “vessel” observation and I don’t want to lose steam and think about it too much so I’ll leave it an open-ended question.
It’s like the awe I feel when I suspend belief for a few hours and turn over control of my senses to a film director. He can open the movie showing a random person being mowed down by a bus on a busy street and I have no idea whether the next few hours will be an examination of the circumstances of the accident, a poignant look at the victim’s life so I can either mourn or rejoice in their passing, or hurrying on to the next scene without so much as a look back on the twitching body.
Although these days I’ve gotten use to seeing such brutality played out without so much as the briefest explanation so I’m no longer surprised when it’s the latter. I’m living in a culture that celebrates sports teams with the monikers Raiders, Vikings, Buccaneers and Pirates, where would this surprise originate from anyway? We’re all just counting down to the Dallas Murderers and Philadelphia Rapists these days.
So we turn to art, holding it over our head like a bamboo umbrella as pianos fall all around us. Around me anyway. There I go again generalizing. Maybe I do it as an ego-defense mechanism. Maybe it’s the only thing that keeps me insane.
Sanity being the only thing a wannabe artist should truly fear. Which in itself is a joke. Depending on our age we define it differently, arrogantly thinking that each older stage of life brings us some sort of perverted wisdom when it could be just as likely that each year takes us further away from the truth.
I’m a wannabe. I tell myself I want to stay a wannabe, that being a wannabe is where it is at but wondering if that’s also a lie. I have plenty of evidence I can point to that success kills whatever spark exists in the true artist but the niggling doubt remains niggling away.
So I bask in being called self-destructive, unaware that there are talentless writers who are just as self-destructive. It’s no badge of honor. If a tree falls on an obscure writer in the forest and nobody reads him will anyone give a shit?
So perhaps you must make that journey from idealist to parody. From the non-conformist raging alone until they are noticed by other non-conformists in such numbers that all their needs are met, they go from writing the great angst anthem to penning a catchy truck commercial.
And there’s fuck all anyone can do about it.
Seeing all this, understanding it to the extent that a dumbshit like myself can understand it, I still wrestle with whom I like and what I like and the fact that these two areas don’t intersect on the graph paper of life as often as I’d like.
I watched a Joe Strummer biography and was moved by his life story but it didn’t change the fact that I don’t like The Clash. What’s wrong with me? Why not?
I watched a special by Jim Breuer who, instead of doing the typical comedy special, chose to chronicle his taking his elderly father with him on his latest tour. If you can’t respect someone like that then you’re a callous bastard indeed. He seems like a great guy. But I never found him funny.
I want to find him funny.
If art is nothing more than the attempt of the artist to gather around themselves people who they would like to be with then why should there be this big disconnect? Is it possible that my definition of art is completely self-serving and the basic premise is flawed?
I’m starting to think this is the case.
I’ve had this image in my head of who I want my audience to be. Believing the traits of the reader are a reflection on me. I want this cool, smart audience because in the end they will define who I am as a writer.
And I believed this bullshit for the last little while.
Now I’m 7 months into being a ‘writer’ I think I’d just like to write for the sake of writing. It can’t be to make a living or be admired or understood. If I can make someone, anyone, as happy to read it as I am happy to write it then that will have to be enough.
And if they don’t like it I should be the first to understand.
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