Sunday, May 29, 2011

Eaten By Some Squirrels

My friend Christian Thompson asks the following question on facebook:

"Let me pose a question for you creative types: If you could create your best work ever, but it came with a 30 day deadline that would result in death if you failed, would you do it?  I got thinking about it after hearing the story of the author Oliver Sacks. He was attempting to finish a novel and caught some nasty writer's block that stumped him for 8 months. He gave himself a 30 day deadline with the promise of suicide if he didn't finish. And you know, he did finish the book."

To which he received a sock full of the kind of answers I suspect he expected;
variations on 'Art Over Life!'. And then there was my single word answer of 'No.', which he 'liked', because he gets me.

Maybe I'm being overly judgmental because I work in a different medium. Imagine the headline: 'Blogger agrees to be thrown into shark tank because he didn't finish post on how disappointed he was that the local grocery store was out of english muffins'.

English muffins are delicious, but I'm pretty sure you see the joke there.

I know what it's like to be an arteest. I did that for awhile. The problem is that the arteest lacks perspective; eventually, there will be no world for your legacy work to survive into (sun explosion), and, you're work is not as great and important as you expect it to be. This last one is true in most cases, and the first one is true in all cases. Yes, most arteest's have the needed narcissism and internal conflict down, but there's something off with the way they apply the fingerpaint.

You've got to have a realistic assessment of your talent. Once you realize and accept that your art isn't that good or important, you'll be free to make the best of it.

Just think about this: the odds are that the above statement applies to almost (if not) everyone who is or could be reading it. Myself included

So why not enjoy your art, and leave your art-messiah self crucified to his long-suffering ego? You'll be happier. Imagine yourself never doing art again. Forget what Rilke says. Say, 'I could never do art again', and mean it. It may be scary at first, especially for those of you who are banking on winning the lottery, but you'll feel better over time. Deal with some of the shit in your own life. You'll feel better. Every time you do a piece, say, 'I don't care if this is the last piece I do'. It will make the work better, and will make you feel better.

Your life is more important than your art, whatever your art is. Enjoy that.


Willie Y said...

Some times you feel like a nut, some times you don't.

Peter Paul

Lodo Grdzak said...

For the great artists, there is no separation between life and the art they produce. That's why guys like Kanye or Woody Allen or Prince or Johnny Depp can be so prolific. I suppose its like that for anyone who's living the truly integrated life. Its not just that these guys love what they do--they are what they do. So 10, 14, 18 hour days aren't hard for them like they'd be for others.

That guy you mention who got writer's block, its not like a blogger (hobbyist)getting writer's block. When you're a 100% artist and you have serious writers block, its indicative of a problem in your life. Not just your artistic life--but your life as a whole and it best get resolved. My guess is that a guy like that, he couldn't go forward and get on with real-life things 'til he got that book done. If my dog Spiffy couldn't case her ball anymore, she probably wouldn't have the will to live either. Doing what we love to do is life-affirming. And when we can't do it--or can't do it to the level we expect of ourselves, what else is there?

Spencer Troxell said...

Since I feel that I'm just as much of an integrated artist as Johnny Depp, Kanye, Woody Allen, or Prince (I'm certainly the most important artist in my own life), I feel comfortable giving them the same advice I gave the arteests above: be willing to accept that each piece may be your last, embrace it, be ready to move on if it is, and you'll be much happier, and your art will be much better.

the elegant ape said...

you write/paint/ sculpt/play music because you have to. Once you sit down and write because you have to create something is lost. Look at the quality of work from the Stones or Orson Wells or William Gibson. Very few artists improve with time or age. The best work is when the are young and hungry. When's the last time you bought a Prince album...

Spencer Troxell said...

I've never bought a prince album.

Lodo Grdzak said...


Just because an artist or personality may become less important to the world as familiarity breeds the populace's contempt, doesn't mean that what the artist does isn't still the most important thing to them personally. In fact, as the newness and adulation wears off and the artist is left just with himself, their work, and their most hardcore fan-base; they oftentimes re-double their efforts and work even harder.

When was the last time I bought a Prince record? Hard to say. But isn't it interesting how he never slowed down despite record sales. Why would he? He's a songwriter--that's who he is. And if he suddenly found himself unable to write or sing or play...hell, why would he want to go on? He wouldn't be Prince anymore.

Spencer Troxell said...

Just to bolster Lodo's point, I can think of a bunch of artists whose work has resonated with me increasingly the farther away from popular appeal and youth they've gotten: Woody Allen (of course), Sting, Vonnegut (except for the last book), George Carlin, Howard Stern, David Byrne, Leonard Cohen, John Waters...

I actually think I prefer artists in their maturity, because they come into their own, and develop a pleasant kind of individualistic weirdness (and comfort with that weirdness) that can only come with maturity.

the elegant ape said...

ten best albums (by rolling stone) of all time.

1. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles

2. Pet Sounds, The Beach Boys

3. Revolver, The Beatles

4. Highway 61 Revisited, Bob Dylan

5. Rubber Soul, The Beatles

6. What's Going On, Marvin Gaye

7. Exile on Main Street, The Rolling Stones

8. London Calling, The Clash

9. Blonde on Blonde, Bob Dylan

10. The Beatles ("The White Album"), The Beatles

all early in their careers.

Spencer Troxell said...

What are your top ten albums?

the elegant ape said...

1.Carol King (Tapestry)

2. lamb lies down on broadway (Genesis)

3 legend (Bob marley and the wailers)

4. Low spark of high heeled boys (Traffic)

5. Darkside of the moon (floyd)

6.Billie Holiday - Lady In Autumn

7. Peter Gabriel three sides live

8 .Goats head soup (stones)

9. John Hiatt (Hiatt Comes Alive at Budokan? )

10. Neil young (After the gold rush)
These are not in any order. Just the one I would grab if the house was on fire.

Lodo Grdzak said...

You're gonna use Rolling Stone Magazine as your source/guide for taste and culture? Think they're pretty skewed in regards to their demographics. I mean, come on man, I'm so sick of hearing 'bout how Pet Sounds by Brian Wilson is such an amazing record. Maybe it was influential in its day. Important for its recoding techniques. But top 10 all-time records? All time?! Please.

Spencer Troxell said...

Russell Blackford is having a discussion over at his blog that coincides nicely with our conversation:

Lodo Grdzak said...

Well I dont think its opinion that Aretha Franklin is the most influential female singer (if not just singer) in pop music and has been for over 40 years. Thats a fact. So how there isn't a single record by her in Rolling Stone speaks volumes to their ethno-centric viewpoint. No Stevie Wonder, eh? No James Brown? Not a single hip-hop record? No Jimi Hendrix record was as great as Pet Sounds? Who even listens to Pet Sounds these days? Rolling Stone is a magazine for the kids of parents who read vanity Fair.