So I’ve been working hard on resolving long-term issues and angsts, as this Covid pandemic finally fades away. I want to clear the decks for action, get away from so much introspection, and get on with the business of arting. (That’s “of arting” not “o farting”).
On of the biggest mental blocks I’ve had is justifying my art without any indication it matters a damn to the world at large. There’s no acclaim, no fame, no celebrity. No appreciation of the work itself. No money, no followning, no recognition.
So the question became, after 69 years of cranking out tens of thousands of pages of text, thousands of photographs, hundreds of musical compositions and videos with no standard by which it appears to amount to anthing at all, how do I keep going without the ongoing pain of feeling that it makes not difference?
I’ve been working on this one for decades, and of late I’ve felt I was growing closer to a clear understanding of the problem, if not a solution to it. And then, a couple days ago, for some unfathomable reason, I remembered a skit I saw performed at a talent show in my high school auditorim some half century ago.
It was a one-man presentation, in mime until the very end. This teenager took on the character of a very elderly man. By following his actions, we divined that the old man was in a small apartment, taking ingredients out of the cabinet, mixing them together, and putting the result in the oven. Time passes. He takes out his creation – a small item, upon which he puts somethings small and verticle – and lights it. It is a candle on top of a cupcake. He turns to the audience, holding the plate with the cupcake on it and speaking for the first time, singing, “Happy birthday to me… Happy birthday to me…” Lights fade.
Now I’m pretty sure that sketch no longer exists anywhere in my mind. But it still exists there. And it has affected how I dealt with my step-dad before he caught Covid in the early days, later dying.
It gave me understanding and compassion. It put me in the shoes of that lonely old man (who was really just a teenager on stage). But if that actor is still alive, I wonder if he would even remember that moment himself. And I wonder if any of the other thousand or so kids in that auditorim that day also recall it, from time to time.
That gave me my answer. What we create as artists (like this very post) should not be judged based on any visible indication that the work has value or popularity. Perhaps some works never hit a single mark. Perhaps others touch many hearts, but in the dark so no one notices.
There’s no feedback, no comments, not even more than the occasional page “like” to validate or justify having created. And creating for its own merit, because that is what an artist does, never spoke to me. I don’t create for myself, and I don’t create because I can’t help it (though I can’t). I do it because I want to put good into the world – something I’ve thought of or saw or built that will make the world a tiny bit better, one heart or mind at a time.
But without the stats, I felt like I hadn’t broken through. But now, as the pandemic ebbs and having just turned 69, I want to set my sails unfettered to explore new lands in both the outer and inner frontiers. And I needed that agnst gone in order to catch the wind.
Because of that lone artist some 50 years ago, I had not only changed my behavior with the older members of my family due to heightened awareness, but I am now also changed to my core as an artist myself, by recognizing that when I create something in which I find value and then float it out across the cyber sea, it may sink, but it also might be fished out by some web surfer who is similarly affected as I was. And, good was put into the world.
And so, I’m pulling out all the stops. No more worrying about publication or sales. Sure, I’ll post links to what I’ve created here and on my FB page and elsewhere, but each and every new work, or the first releasing of an old one I’ve never shared before is one more chance that, here and there, one or the other will change things for the better, just a little bit. And it is THAT knowledge that ends my artistic ansgt and enables me to proceed full tilt with reckless creation.