So Here's the Truth About the Real Work of an Artist

You will try a bunch of stuff and most of it is not going to work out.  And the stuff that does work out, most likely, no one is really going to notice, or even care.  And at first, that’s really discouraging, but then you learn to accept it because you love what you are doing and you care, so you keep going and you keep experimenting because what you love most is the discovery of  “What can I do with this?” and “How can I express this old idea in a new way?” and "What happens when I put that next to this?"  And sometimes, you get on a roll and you have this incredible momentum of thoughts and ideas and production and at that point, the most poisonous thing is the fantasies that rise, of being discovered, of being celebrated, of being known for your work.  Because inevitably, you get a call from your parents who tell you that your recent stuff has taken a turn for the worse and that they find it depressing and that they know you are losing your audience and that they are afraid that you are losing your mind and that they wish you would focus on one thing like those cute bird cartoons you used to do.  “Everyone liked those,” they remind you.  And even though you know they love you and want the best for you and even though you want them to be honest, right?, you can’t help but feel wronged, right here in the same spot where you feel the unfettered waves of energy pouring forth when you are the most inspired, the spot that now calcifies into a hard little pit because you are afraid they might be right.  Maybe you are a fool.  Maybe you are losing your mind.  Maybe everyone is shaking their heads and saying, “What a pity that she isn’t doing those cute bird cartoons anymore.”  Maybe you even cry.  But then you remember that your father-in-law told you, just the other night how much he likes what you are doing and to keep it up, so you send him an email thanking him for being appreciative, and “by the way, thanks for the wild turkey,” the one he cut from a poster and sent to the kids, the one he was worried was lost in the mail.  “It got here,” you write, “but strangely without a postmark, instead, across the two stamps. . . .” And just then, as you are about to describe how across the two stamps, American flags both, one saying “Liberty,” the other “Freedom,” that across those, someone had scribbled a black wavy line as if saying, “No.” And because you practice everyday, your mind is agile and makes a connection to the turkey your father-in-law sent in the envelope with those stamps and that little hard pit you felt when your parents told you that you are not living up to their expectations, dissolves into a vision, a collage, a commentary on the state of America, with the wild turkey speaking those stamps and all around a ridiculous array of products that we are constantly being force fed Free Shipping 50% Off Entertaining Essentials and you grab a scissors and dig through the recycling for those catalogs – the incessant stream of advertising that lands in your mailbox everyday and makes you mad, but today makes you glad because you are going to take them and rearrange them into a piece of art that you feel passionate about, that you care about because that is the real work of an artist, not becoming famous, not winning awards, not pleasing your parents or anyone else for that matter, except you.  So, always remember, keep practicing and listen to your first cousin when he says, “While it’s kind of deflating because they’re our parents and we really want them to like and support what we do, we can’t let that stop us from doing what we’re passionate about.  So I say, keep posting existentialist poems juxtaposed with severed rabbit heads, dammit!”

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