Thursday, September 13, 2012

do not go gently

To make Art is to confront your own mortality.

While you're at it, you'll face dozens of tiny moments where you'll be tempted to hold some of yourSelf in reserve. In writing, this means hedging a bit on a key truth, or saving a witticism "for later."

Why does this happen?

For one thing, there's fear -- fear that if I put all of myself into this one story, screenplay, painting, or performance, then there won't be enough left of me for the next one. Every artist wrestles with this insecurity. And to make good art, every artist must win.

But there is another, deeper issue at hand.

If, when making a work of art, I tell all the truth I know and tell it as well as I know how, and it is still rejected by my peers and the world at large, then my value comes into question.

All the little projects I take on in life -- artistic or otherwise -- are ways in which I attempt to imbue my own particular existence with significance. The goal of art is to communicate something to someone else in an artful way, and if that communication doesn't happen, then the particulars of my life seem somehow less significant to me. If I cannot erect a meaningful monument to my life, then what meaning will there be to my death?

So, what? How does this play out?

Well, as an artist, I sabotage myself, hiding little bits and pieces of the truth and of my ability, so that if I do not succeed in communicating what I wish, then my life will not somehow be invalidated.

The irony of this sabotaging is not lost on me, nor is the futility of finding significance in something as fickle as the validation of my peers. Nonetheless, I'm not talking about reality, I'm talking about the vagaries of moment-by-moment emotional experience. I am talking about fear. I'm talking about the looming specter of death.

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