Well, it’s been about twenty minutes since I pestered you with any of my ill-begotten screeds, which tells me in a very frank way that Necessity dictates another is sorely due. Things here are loathsome and, in many respects, do not look as though they are going to change. I’m in close combat with dire and dark forces, against a glut of sensationalist clamour, being psychically molested every hour on the hour until I finally give those cowboy fuckers what they want. But concession and surrender are modes in which I am neither familiar nor gifted. And so it goes.
There are those who have a little bit of everything between Left and Right, all laid out in an ideological buffet spread. And there are others whose political convictions are merely in the order of bad taste. I prefer to be on the losing side of things, if only to not go along with the alarm-ringing totalitarians marching arm in arm across the globe like a dangerous human net designed to snag and drag us to our doom. But that’s business, capital guerrilla tactics or no. I’ m like a man shot in the belly and dying a very slow and horribly painful death. At other times I just want to take the fish knife to these bastards and flay them good and proper. Whatever the outcome, things will remain as vicious as they are, and the factories will still produce plastic schmaltz to the sound of mechanical jazz. As for being an artist, I’m a bit divided on that score. My inner voice, that beautifully-withdrawn-from- reality, soulful voice of optimism, says “go for it!” in a “show ‘em what for” kind of way, circa 1968. However, my practical, external voice—used in almost all my exchanges with others, sadly—says “stick to the fences picking up trash and maybe you’ll catch an errant fly ball.” That’s my advice, take it or leave it, but I just don’t see how an honest, decent person like yourself could go through the ordeal of being an artist in a world that makes such bitter demons of them all. If you can’t make a decent living wage at anything, then you might as well be up to the wall when the lobby train of well-meaning national concern folk have their mausers trained on your impoverished ass. Life would be much simpler if we were poisonous jellyfish, that way everything leaves you alone and your only obligation in this world is to let your limbs dangle and just drift along.
But you probably don’t give a damn and you don’t need my approval to get your home fires lit. A little support is nice, I agree, but a true honest-to-grits artist has to learn how to get along without that back-patting network of artsy allies. If you're one of those sad sacks that needs constant support to be “motivated,” may I suggest that you cultivate a deep and meaningful relationship with the bottle. All the rest you can fantasize, pretending that mummy and daddy are smiling benevolently over you while you're in the deep cold sweats of your craft, squeezing out every line or brush stroke like you have a bad case of constipation and the piles. Or better yet, a kidney stone making its way to the painful end of your shlong.
A writer’s only friends are other writers. That can’t last, or you will quickly discover what fiendish, savage, low-down cutthroat thieves and pirates they are. And, in turn, you will learn said sparkling qualities about yourself. Writers are crafty, opportunistic beings that will share nothing with you—except their writing. O-ho! Beware that! No negative crits of their souls poured out on the page lest they remember later on and find ways to kill you. Well, maybe not. Don’t expect that they will read you seriously, and I don’t expect that you will read them seriously either. It’s like any other self-help group. Writers are AA in reverse, and if they don’t have that community support in their lowly niche, well, they might go loopy, write some twisted manifesto, and blow up insurance buildings. Remember: Hitler and Manson were launched into their infamous careers from the springboard of being failed artists. But for the most part, many failed artists merely fade back into the stream and get “real jobs” selling insurance. The wacked-out manifesto writer merely goes off to demonize and destroy any possible alternatives for different employment; hence, the ruins of the buildings in which they may have worked had they bothered to shave their bushy beards, buy some shoes, and trade in their secret shack in the wilderness for a modest pad in the city.
Painters have a harder time, though many more of them make it up the ladder. It’s an impatient craft, very ephemeral. Too many painters are “discovered” and dropped in a matter of about a week, from glitzy glamour to gritty grotto, the life of your “found” painter is not necessarily a long one. In other words, forget New York; they have enough Andy Warhols and Robert Rauschenbergs to secede and create their own sovereign nation. The most ingratiating failure of the painter occurs when they get wrapped up in the cocktail party intrigues, the parlour prattle, talking more about the art and the state of the arts than actually doing it. I guess this pretty much follows in all the arts, though. But if you want to wax lyrical about the big postmodern jargon, then you’d be better off becoming a theorist in a university and be assured of getting some semblance of a stable income.
Perhaps you have designs on the stellar and star-studded role of a filmmaker, but this art is tricky and by far the most costly of them all. You’ll need big capital because you’ll have to handle the currency of several people and a veritable factory’s worth of equipment. The cheapest film will cost you around a grand if you want to cut down on various costs (good equipment, talent). But, as opposed to the painter who can get away with scrawling ten cent crayons on an oversized sheaf of cardboard and have it triumph as a masterpiece, a film shot cheaply will show. If you want to be a filmmaker, then you better start brushing up on your high school accounting and economics courses now. And if you want to obtain the capital, you will see just how friendly your friends really are…Otherwise, you may have to make it your second full-time career trying to pry the small dosh from the ever-tightening claws of big business technopolies. Expect strings. And, as ever in all the arts, expect that the freeloader living in your house and not going away is Failure himself.
I’m not trying to dissuade you, despite all appearances. What you have chosen—or are planning to choose—is an honorable sport…Or would be three hundred years ago. But you have to be prepared for what you’re in for. Being an artist is a treacherous uphill climb through blizzards, over jagged rocks, with a nagging obese woman strapped to your back. Suffering is a bloodsport, and after a while it grows on you like the familiarity that comes with the same nauseating song overplayed on the radio that you have no choice but to hum to. Become familiar with this suffering and you have half the whole artist schtick down—the other half, of course, being talent. But why get bogged down with the details? It all begins with that whimsical, naïve, dangerously stupid realization of having talent, but not knowing what executing it entails. It’s just like the army: you read the brochures, you talk to the mild mannered man at the recruitment desk, you get all jazzed up about the perks, and it all seems just peachy…until your first week in boot camp, or during a vicious exchange of gunfire in a place you do not know while people around you are all screaming in a strange language you will never understand. Terror. Confusion. Failure. The artist’s triad.
Being an artist, whatever that is, will definitely make you a cut above the rest of those incompetent and idiotic beasts, but expect to live like one for a while yet. Unless you’re Jane Austen or a trust fund kid, you will be living in conditions even a beast wouldn’t envy. Let’s just hope that your calling doesn’t, as it has for so many others, turn out to be the siren’s voice lulling you to your jagged, coastline doom.