As an artist/writer, I have been thinking quite a lot about support lately. I’m not talking about the kind where you depend upon the kindess of
strangers friends to meet your daily needs. I’m not even talking about the emotional support (attaboys, etc.) that all who endeavor to share their creations need. I am talking about tangible support from family and friends as we put our secret selves out for public display.
Can I preach for a moment? That’s a rhetorical question; if you know me, you have already learned that I will irrespective of whether anyone is listening. So, yeah, I’mma preach for a spell.
Art is fucking hard. If you’ve ever done any, you already know what I mean. Bad art is easy, I will agree. But see, we artists have a name for bad art. We call it a first draft. And first drafts are just what they sound like – a beginning. Art takes time, revision, hair-pulling, self-doubt, critique, and a spectacularly thick skin.
At its best, it involves sitting in a quiet space, adding whatever devices the artist has learned will free his/her imagination, and then closing the door, and letting all the demons out. Sometimes, they paint the canvas brilliantly, and we sit back and thank whomever substitutes for the creator for the gift. More often than not, however, we stop, disgusted, and wonder how such a perfect idea could have turned into such shit when it hit the page.
But we are driven, we artists, or obsessed, if we are successful ones, and so we chip away at the damaged block we chiseled out of our hearts, and attempt to make it sing. And yes, I do realize I just mixed 3 metaphors, but I’ve done so on purpose. That’s what art is like. You start on one path, a simple one, trying to sketch what you see. But then it takes a turn; the work decides it needs more dimensions than your simple piece, and suddenly, it’s a sculpture, for which you didn’t bring the right tools. And, after months of crying blood and sweating laughter, you finish. But it isn’t right, because your sculpture is a song, and you forgot the words.
It never works; it’s always wrong.
And then one day, it isn’t. You finished, not because you’re done, but because you can no longer make it better; you can only make it different.
And these, my friends, have all been the fun parts. The work, you see, is no more than becoming that whom we were born to be. The rest – the magical, horrible unveiling, that is the hard part. So, we do – we finish, and, gods help us, we share. And you know what we get from friends and family?
Nothing of importance.
You see, I’ve learned that support in the 21st century is no longer a tangible thing. Instead, it has become commercial support, or a reality TV almost-real thing. They buy your books, and they want “hard cover” but first, you must “sign it.” Know why? Because they have no intention of reading your book. They aren’t going to frame your sketch and put it in the office to enjoy. No, instead, they are giving themselves a gift on your behalf. They are enabling themselves to feel they know an artist, or believe they are helping support you, without doing the single thing the artist wants them to do:
Care about the fucking art.
We don’t want you to buy the damn book. We want you to want to read it. I don’t give two shits how long you’ve known your artist friend/lover/spouse, if you’ve never read their work, you don’t know shit about them. That’s because the work is where they live – the inside part, that secret part they want you to see, but can only explain through their work. When you tell them you bought their book, but don’t, they know. They know, because as soon as you tell them, they check their sales numbers so they can always remember which one was you. But it doesn’t click over, because you never bought it. And when you do buy it, but never bother to read it, they know that too.
And do your artist friend a favor, if you see their art, but didn’t like it, consider being honest enough with them to tell them it wasn’t for you. Then, continue to wish them well. They didn’t make the art for you, so they only hope you like it – but they are well aware perhaps you won’t. They won’t die from your honesty. I can’t say the same about your lack of interest, however. Those little cuts don’t heal very well.
So, yeah, I’m preaching tonight. I’m preaching because I’ve written 5 books, and none of the people in my life – the ones really in my life – gives a shit. I’ll be truthful, of all the friends and family, exactly 4 have ever read a single book. Now, understand, my family calls me or emails, crying as they read blog posts or poems I’ve had published. But no one reads the books. Is it because they suck? I don’t think so; I’ve only ever gotten 1 bad review, by a clown who confessed he didn’t read the second half of the book.
No, they don’t read because that would require actual time. And time, my friends, is thicker than blood, which is only marginally thicker than water.
Thank God the interwebs are thicker than time, so I do get support. However, being an artist has redefined whom I consider friends. Those who tell me they will buy my book (and don’t) or are waiting for signed (free) copies, wait on. I care about you and your 21st century support even less than you care about who I really am. For clarity, if you’ve never read my work, or share 50% of my genetic code, we ain’t really friends. We’re still cool, but friends support each other.
At least, that’s what my ex-wife, who suffers from daily migraines but still read my 1st book, and is the cover model for my latest one tells me. Support is a real thing. Gestures are for middle fingers.
As a P.S., here are some rejected covers for the latest book, The Juice. Just so you can see that revision, revision, revision is the only way to achieve art.