And you are sure there’s no way you will ever be one.
And you are picturing a half-assed sun peeping behind pointy mountains when you hear the word artist.
For a long time, that’s all art meant for me. Our general definition of what constitutes art is naive and narrow.
Over time, I have come to realize art is anything that has mass and takes up space in a way it matters (genius) to you (and you alone).
An artist, for the sake of this essay: you, is anyone suffering from the aforehinted heaviness of mattering and decides to translate the heaviness into something noticeable and humane.
Artist isn’t the label. It’s the underside.
Here’s the label:
Starvation, death, death by starvation, loneliness — even though you don’t want to be friends with most people anyway; rejection and ridicule from dickish people, disbelief as you watch the said category of people succeed. Not to mention, your art going wrong and becoming something grotesque, or worse, misunderstood.
Occasionally, if you are lucky, foolish, patient, masochistic, and delusional, side-effects may include bliss, fulfillment, and the heaviness translated into a lightness so unbearable. Of course, by now, you are an alcoholic, pothead and have, you know, problems. That’s when money, fame, and power show up and life, just to be a dick, kills you before you can experience any of it. You lucky dawg.
Here’s how you can get lucky too.
For a start, let’s begin by putting the ‘I am not creative’ excuse to rest. I have written about this already (here, here, here and here), and here’s a very brief summary of all that: Screw creativity.
Ask yourself what’d you do that’s indifferent to success and failure: the play that can neither win or lose: the time that is neither lost nor gained. Art, you will discover, is stillness.
For every 500 words that make it to this blog, there’s 1000 that don’t. But, I need the 1000 words to arrive at 500. A part of those 1000 words mattered to me in a way it wouldn’t have mattered to anyone else. There’s no way to determine the success or failure of those words. All I know is without them, the final 500 words would mean little to me.
For you, it need not be words. It could be playing an instrument, photography, binocularography, rapping, comedy, painting (Duh!), sketching, knitting a sweater (make one for me if you are into meaningful things like this), crocheting a glove (same request), teaching, candy crush.
The next step is to spend/waste time with/on the art.
Finally, just for the record, I am not asking you to find your passion.
I am asking your passion to find you. Cze being a unicorn-whisperer is my side-hustle, suckers. I am only asking you to sit there and not run away as it tries to find you. It will be awkward, sweaty and embarrassing. Sit there and like, hurt for a while.
Other times, you are happy it left. Whatever it is, sit there knowing the thing with mass and space is coming. It will matter to you only as much as you matter to it. Just don’t be a coward about it. Stillness, after all, only means sitting there and dying slowly.
You will hear people who have experienced that stillness tell you that they do it for themselves. I never understood that. After a year, I do.
Ironically, that’s what made them heroes. Some people gave it everything. Because it took everything from them. They let their art kill them in order for the art to make other people come alive.
They lived an audience and died a hero. What every artist does, in a way, is prevent these efforts from dying out. S/he keeps the oxygen supply running.
Because here’s something they don’t tell you: the artist needs the oxygen more than anyone else. Sending it out there is merely his/her way of breathing. As poet John Donne said, Send not to know for whom the bell tolls, It tolls for thee.