If you find yourself at a loss for ideas, fill the fuel bins. Read furiously, watch feverishly, listen in awe. Art isn’t a game of making the most unique and unreferencable thing, it’s got to have connections. The more different art is, the harder it is to find people who can relate and resonate with it. Why stay remote and removed?
You won’t be able—at least, it’ll be a vanishingly small possibility—to create anything meaningful, relevant, and new unless you’re consuming other artists’ work.
If you’re a filmmaker, the film you want to make will be informed and enlivened by the film’s you love and are watching now.
A songwriter or composer needs to be listening to lots of music if they want to make more of it themselves.
Your own work is born of and flows from what you’ve seen and heard. It doesn’t even matter if you understand how or what bits got remixed into the new thing you’re making. A lot happens below the surface, subconsciously and organically if you’re regularly—or, better, constantly—fueling your soul with works already made by others. Very little that’s any good was made in isolation from other art.
We want others to connect with the things we do. It’s eminently human, and we need more deeply human things in the world.
The Following Post Is Comics Only, Text to Return Shortly
I finally got around to seeing the Carpool Karaoke featuring Paul McCartney, and it was typically wonderful. I really can’t get enough of Paul just being his alternately down-to-earth and godlike-famous selves—the latter of which he dubs “Him”—but this was a cut above. It must be terribly hard, sometimes, to reconcile being a person who just wants to walk around in the world as a normal human with a concept people want to worship and get a piece of, everywhere you go. I’m continually amazed by the grace he displays of such relentless recognition. I’m sure it’s hard.
So many of us think we want to be famous, and should think harder and longer about what it might mean. There’s little controlling it if it happens.
Finding Some Minutes in Any Given Day You Have to Work Is Hard
I feel your pain, if you have to run a job and work on art during your free time. Jobs are exhausting, and the last thing you want to do, oftentimes, when you get home is more work, even if it’s fun and compelling, and, let’s face it, what you said you wanted to do.
This is where doing your thing as a daily habit works the best. I can only offer encouragement in a couple small ways. Here’s a list, because, as anyone who’s followed this blog for a while knows, I love those:
If you just don’t have the time to set up for your main project (maybe you’re working in, say, oil paint), do some work in the same medium. Plan another stage on paper, do a fast color sketch, write chord changes, do a test video with the script you’ve written. Little bits add up to big bits, and that includes the project minutiae.
Be easy on yourself. Be gentle. Be kind. Be furiously kind, for sure, but do not beat yourself up for not enough done. Some work is still work.
We don’t do things in whole pieces, most of the time. Our work, like our lives, is done in bits, chunks, sections. It’s the accumulation of the small things that emerge as a recognizable cohesive one. Any one piece is probably unrecognizable or representative. It’s a stroke at a time, one line and then another.
So art, like life, is meta. In order to make something, you have to think of it as a distinct entity or concept. Maybe not at first, if you’re an artist who likes to create from a spontaneous start. But if you never focus or decide on a unifying whole, you’re left with a pile of pieces. Lego blocks scattered around vs. a castle or spaceship or robot or truck.
All it takes for something to come into focus is dedication to small things every day. Real time work isn’t grand, but it’s the only way for grand to gestate and come into being.
The art world is weird. Big exhibitions like Art Basel can get even weirder, but I try to find the public works every year, the big stuff and the things tucked into corners, away from the main sales bustle. These are often funny, evocative, striking works, including performances, and I wish we did this everywhere, putting creative expression amidst commercial and residential mass production and sameness.
I’ve listened to a couple pieces the last few days, separated by many years but near-perfect in their own ways. The first is George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass. It’s a huge collection, filled up with songs rejected by John and Paul, as well as plenty that he’d written purely by being inspired. It flows well, it’s dynamic, and it’s powerful. It doesn’t drag at all, as you’d imagine a 23-track album would have to. Spotify link
I’ve been a fan of Neko Case since I discovered The New Pornographers, after Mass Romantic made everyone’s best of indie lists in 2001. Case proved an even better songwriter in her solo career than she was a singer in TNP, and that’s saying a lot, because I’m in love with her voice. Her newest, Hell-On, runs a dizzying emotional and aural gamut, managing to be melancholy, funny, and hopeful all at once. Spotify link
Declaring your sovereignty is both a goal and a rite of passage in creative circles. But it’s not necessarily a better way to get your work done and out in the world than working adjunct to a job of any kind.
Institutions and employers offer support you can’t generate on your own. It’s always a good idea to try to discount biases in making any decision to set off on your own. Concepts like “freedom” and “independence” have deep roots in our psyches, especially for Americans. It can block or hinder us to assume being on your own is always better by default.
Assuming such grand and fundamental tropes are not the most important isn’t a bad course of action. We get in our own way far too often to shrug off questioning assumptions.
The spark for these thoughts is this article by Dylan Matt, questioning if the American Revolution was the best path to take, or a mistake that prolonged slavery and genocide.
Today was a series of decisions that took all the free hours of my day off. They were:
Scrolling social media feeds and alternately seething and laughing (1.5 hours…be fair, 2 hours)
Reorganizing space on my laptop by deleting unused and outdated apps (2 hours)
Traveling to the court house to get my address updated, since they seem to think I still live at my previous. (2 hours)
Squeezing in a single coding class Pomodoro (.5 hours)
Editing my podcast and queuing it to publish (5.5 hours)
Making dinner while adding things to my Netflix queue (1.5 hours)
Listening to All Things Must Pass while reading and writing this post before bedtime to get up at 5:30 for work. (1 hour)
There isn’t much of a point to this. Just that there are the same hours in every day, and looking at where they go can help identify where to change or cull choices of time spent. Time is all we’ve got, really.