Pick Your Battles.
We are in a capitalist country and guess what, no matter how many rallies and percentage points we talk about that is not going to change. In America, we are never going to be socialists. This country was founded by joyless Puritans and as artists we need to accept that and practice the protestant work ethic in our art and let our creations be what changes the political landscape. Most artists do not have philistine values of greed and hallow commercialism but we need to pick our battles and accept that we are here to reach an audience and sell great art to them. If we make accessible art and put humanist, romantic, and nihilistic values in it, we can help impact culture-that is our true job. We are culture’s guardians and protectors.
The Good of Globalization.
We are not the only kids on the block and our country is pretty damn stupid; we need to start trying to be part of a global conversation this is forming in this new century. We need to read fiction & poetry from other countries; musicians need to listen to other artists not just from the U.S. and Canada. We have now entered globalization, it’s not going anywhere–there is a lot of bad because of it but there is also a lot of good which is that we have access to all types of art that is 8 time zones away. Look for the best things in the world and let it inspire you.
Screw Scenes, Love Community.
If you really want to be special and reach your potential then say the hell with being part of a scene, tribe, and really any group in general. For art to really flourish, it needs to be territorial not hierarchical (A War of Art Philosophy): what do I think is interesting, what do I want to say, what is the music, art, writing, poems I want to produce. Individualism is best for the artist. Yet, there is a paradox–you still need to be part of an artistic community. Community is great, it is needed, and you need to be deeply involved in it while keeping your individualism.
You need real friendships in the art game; it is extremely important for your soul and your survival. Go the Aristotle route, look for other artists you feel Mutual Inspiration with; those are the important ones–those are the ones that will give you some happiness and companionship in this miserable and heavenly pursuit. The friendship also needs to be a positive sum game, save competition for athletics, you both need to root for each other and support the hell out of each other. There are plenty of avenues of success, and you need to be each others cheerleader– don’t ever think the art world is a zero sum game. It is not.
Befriend Artists That…
Make you feel lazy and untalented, those are the ones that are going to bring out the best in you and make you more disciplined. Realize too, usually what you think is your best is actually your half best. I prided myself on practicing for 3 hours and told this to a bass player I think is amazing and he told me he had just finished a 6 hour practice. There was a good lesson in that–great artists work twice as hard; especially compared to what you think is hard work. These are the type of artists you want to associate yourself with–these are the ones you want to emulate because they will bring out the best in you.
Seduce The Middle & Sneak Things In.
You want to know what book, song, movie, tv show impacted the political landscape? It was ‘Enlightened’ on HBO…that was a joke, myself and 8 people watched that show (it is actually pretty damn good). No, it was ‘Modern Family’. When historians look on how suburban bourgeoise changed their opinion on Gay Marriage it will be because of that show. We need to accept that Middle of the Road shows are going to impact culture much more than high art shows like ‘Enlightened’. ‘The Dark Knight’ was a meditation on existential issues just as much as The Tree of Life and it way more entertaining. Our goal is to take the issues & themes of high art and bring them to the middle of the road people–the moderate lower and middle class suburbanite. Lets be honest; those are the people with some money, some time, and at least some curiosity on things–we can’t just go after big city intellectuals. I am not saying to make safe center-left art that doesn’t rock the boat; we are here to rock the boat and eventually flip it the fuck over but first we have to make sure it appears safe enough for regular people to want to get in the boat.
You need money and becoming a good to great artist takes time. Find a job that gives you time to be an artist; what I mean is pick your job for autonomy not for security (like being able to sneak writing in), don’t make it the other way around. It is all about time and money; you need to find something that will give you enough time to pursue your true calling–to create. Your eventual goal should be to find a way to be at least poor (American poor is upper middle class is many other countries, so being poor isn’t that bad y’all) making your art, that is the goal–to make this your vocation somehow, some way, even if you have to end up having to work another part-time job the rest of your life. If that doesn’t appeal to you, accept that art will just be a hobby and then feel very grateful that you will at least get most of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs met.
Do At Least Two Things.
If Beyoncé can, you can. If James Franco can do six things you can at least do two. You are a poet, well, you can write so do another genre or start a spoken word band. You are a musician and take good photographs of other bands, well there you go. To keep the juices flowing you need to do two things and you need to try to find a way to get two sources of income coming to you. The saying let one hand wash the other is very true in this day age, also in the cyberworld of crap you are going to need to be a Brand that sticks out. If you have two different audiences you are a head of the game.
Follow the Muse & Then Follow The Money.
The goal needs to be to make money. I know that sounds bad cause most of us are left of center types & feel that nauseous feeling about capitalism and art. But yet, that has to be the goal. We might not get paid shit, but that is the goal-it produces a professionalism and a work ethic that we will need for the long haul. Now before I get labeled a philistine let me still stress that you follow your muse first–then you try to sell. You have to create what you want to create first, not think what does the market want. When it is created then you think like a business person. Hell, this blog has become a huge passion but still I am not just doing this for fun, this will end up being a collection that will most likely be shopped around (I got some good shit stashed I wish I could show my readers but I can’t till they buy the book) and if that doesn’t work with a publisher than I will self-publish the collection for 4.95 (if you are going to be part of the self-publish club, that is cool, I’m nonaligned, but value your hard work enough to put it at least 4.95$–it should be worth as much as the awesome milkshake in Pulp Fiction) through kindle and an audiobook (I am gonna label it The Passion of the Christoph: An Audiobook For The Deaf…if you get the QOTSA reference you are cool) for 4.95$. Then I am going to submit my novel Prophet to a traditional publisher. I am out to be a prolific great artist and to do that I need to be getting paid so I am not always sneaking around writing when I shouldn’t be. BUT I want to stress my motives and drive is not about the money; I am not telling people to become Gordon Gecko here, I’m just stressing that you need some professionalism and time to be prolific and to end up not being completely miserable. Right now, even if I wanted a family and all that security white picket fence shit I wouldn’t have the option because I wouldn’t have the time. When making art becomes your vocation then you have time and that is what is really about. Time > Money; but you need Money to have Time.
Editors, Producers, etc…
I am guilty of having some typo’s on this blog, we all are (I’m sure there has been 3-7 typos already), but once there is going to be money exchanged you need to make sure the work is clean and tight. Find people who will make sure everything is good to go (no errors). Musicians too, even if you are DIYing get a producer, get somebody to watch your back, we all have blind sides and the professional makes sure he has someone watching out for what he can’t see.
With freedom comes decadence, and man there is a lot shitty art out there, now every mediocre amateur writer, musician, hell, whoever wants to can put all their crappy art out there and ask people to pay for it. Is it fair to artists with talent and something of substance to say? No, but who gives a damn is my final answer, if you can’t change it not worth your time bitching about it. If you feel you are better than the crap out there you gotta find a way to get it to the people. Your desire that you are one of the great ones needs to be so extreme, it needs to be close to an obsession because if you don’t and you are not lucky to find that right middle man, you are gonna have to do that yourself. If you aren’t social, and all that–too fucking bad–passion will make you do anything when it comes down to it. The art game follows the laws of Darwin just like most things in the world: either adapt or die.
I am stealing this from somebody who stole this and it’s just a circle of good advice I will end this rant on. You need principles to stand firm on and the best are the 3 P’s of patience, passion, and perseverance. You have to have a few bed rock principles because you are going to have miserable lonely awful days and those three are the ones to help get your through those days. You can’t always count on friends or family and there are going to be days where all you have are your principles and self-belief. If you stay close to those three it is hard to get off the path of becoming a great artist.
Oh yeah…One Last Thing.
Keep at it. Don’t ever quit. It’s worth it…besides what else are you going to do?