A short time ago I saw a posting from Brain Pickings on Facebook, quoting Oscar Wilde as having said, “A True Artist Takes No Notice Whatever of the public. The public are to him non-existent.”
Listed amongst the comments which followed were such remarks as:
“No finer definition of art and artists has been written.”
“fuck yes! true words.”
And so goeth generations of gullible artists to their narcissistic vacuums to create art for an audience that, according to Oscar Wilde, does not matter.
To this I say, “PPPTTTHHHHHTTTTTT!”
I call BULLSHIT on Oscar Wilde. Bullshit I say! Because not even Oscar Wilde believed this nonsense. The fact is, he was acutely aware of his audience and went to great lengths to attract, shock and sustain them through not only his writing, but his personal behavior as well. Don’t forget, he is also the father of this precious word baby: “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” Does that sound like a guy who doesn’t give a whiz about his audience? He was the epitome of an artist in search of attention. Why else would he walk around Victorian England with a lobster on a leash? A LOBSTER, PEOPLE!!!!!!!
This is just one of several moronic yet persistent myths about successful creative people that I’d like to take out back to the shed and put down with a shotgun before it mauls another innocent bystander.
Here is a list of some other insidious myths that are on my hit list:
Successful Writers,Actors, Painters, Dancers, etc… Are ‘Different’ From You. False, but with one caveat: If “different from you” means they worked their asses off by creating art wherever and whenever they could, then yes, this myth is, in fact correct. If, however, you mean they are somehow ‘made differently’, well…wrong-o. All successful artists are born on the same planet as the unsuccessful ones, and to the same species too. Their brains are the same size. They eat, sleep, drink, poop, fart, laugh, dance, sing, cry, cheat, lie and pick their noses, just like you. Yes, you, Farty McNoseminer. They have same desire to communicate that you do, they just work harder at it. A LOT HARDER. Wanna become just like them? Then get to work, you lazy bastard!
They Have Access To An Exclusive Creative Source That Exists In Another Dimension:. *obnoxious gameshow buzzer* Sorry, pal! Thanks for playing! No they don’t. They have access to the same limitless resource every three year old does: The Imagination. They just take the time to feed it, water it, play with it, give it some attention and room to run free. They take it out for a gallop and stop it from slipping into a boredom coma by getting out of their comfort zone on a regular basis. How do you do this? See the infamous “How To Be An Awesome Writer When You Aren’t Writing” post.
They Did Their Best Work Under the Influence: Okay. Hear me out. Yes. Some of them did, but that’s because some of them did ALL their work under the influence. Philip K. Dick, Jim Morrison, Robert Downey Jr., Aldous Huxley, Hunter S. Thompson, Tennessee Williams, Janis Joplin, Stephen King, William S. Burroughs, Jimi Hendrix, Edgar Allen Poe, F. Scott Fitzgerald, etc..the list goes on. Booze, Weed, Opium, Speed, Mescaline, LSD, Shrooms, Absinthe, Hashish. They imbibed and they did so, in most cases, regularly. They wrote some pretty badass stuff too. Sure. I give you that. BUT…and it’s a big but (Big but! Get it?! Titter titter! Tee hee! Snort!)….could they have done it without poisoning themselves? Yes, assuredly so.
Now, here’s where I say something that you Teetotalers aren’t going to like, so if you want to browse your devotionals or watch an episode of Touched By An Angel, do so now. To the rest of you, step into this dark alley with me for a moment whilst I propose this question: Would Willie S. Burroughs have written Naked Lunch without the opium brain enemas? Hell to the no. You can actually smoke the pages of Naked Lunch and get a high from it, it’s that jacked up. I will admit that there may be something to be said for doing a little mind expansion. ON OCCASION. However…
…if you spend your life chugging scotch from a bottle and snorting coke, will you create art? Yeah, probably, when you aren’t unconscious, in prison or sleeping it off in a cesspool of your own body fluids. Will you live very long? Probably not. So wouldn’t you rather be a living and yet-to-be-famous writer rather than a dead and famous one who is mostly famous for getting f*cked up and being dead?
It Was Their Destiny (wind sweeps, chimes tinkle) To Be Great: *sigh* Believe what you want to believe. I’m not here to take your religion away from you, but hear me out. What if i could give you something more awesome and valuable than fickle, fickle fate? What if I gave you self-determination instead? Because THIS is the truth about how great artists get that way, and it doesn’t include a benevolent forest witch appearing at their cradles. Great artist: a.) have the skill (acquired through many hours of hard work); and they have b.) the desire (expressed through may hours of hard work. Are you sensing a pattern here?); as well as c.) the good sense to keep plugging along after every failure. They also have a touch of d.) “special sauce”, which is made up of a combination of decent genetics, a conducive background, opportunity and education, and the good fortune to live in a place that isn’t in the midst of war, ongoing natural catastrophe or alien invasion where every second of life is earned at the point of a smoking gun. Add to that a dash of plain old good luck…and some of those cookie sprinkles. Gotta have the sprinkles, yo.
Personally, I believe the more you have of items “a”, “b” and “c”, the less you need of “d”. So go get yourself a truckload of “a”, “b” and “c”, pray every night for a little “d” (See? I told you I wouldn’t take your religion away) and there will be no reason you cannot be just as successful as your idols. Call me crazy, but that’s how I see it. Boom.
Now, I’m not so naive that I don’t understand how building a mythology gives an artist allure to an audience, but that’s marketing, it’s not the reality of who we are or how writing gets done. Trying to sell another artist on that B.S. is usually an attempt to keep them insecure, unproductive or persuade them to give up. It’s like trying to convince another actor at a Disney audition that the performer who plays Tinkerbell can actually fly and has a never taken a steaming dump before a show. Please.
So in the event you should someday find me signing books and taking fan photos at a convention with a king crab on a gold leash, spouting off about how I’m blissfully unaware of my audience or of the fact that my work has been translated into seventeen languages or that there’s a fifty foot billboard with my face on it in Times Square, you will now know that even I do not believe a darned word of my self-aggrandizing treacle. Just give me the secret Fight Like A Writer hand signal (which a team of psychologists and sign language experts are working on as we speak in my attic prison…er…lab), toss some chum to my pet crab and enjoy the tragicomedy of it all. And know that I know that you know that i know…its all for show, baby.