I met a lot of talented writers at Antioch. My cohort still checks in weekly and we help keep each other encouraged, on track, etc. This morning, one phrase jumped out at me. One woman was writing about courage and said she thinks of a number of things like the people dancing in the streets in Egypt, but she also mentioned “all of us our face alight with the glow of submishmash clicking Send.” Isn’t that a great image?
One of the most sobering things I’ve heard on the artistic life was from Orson Wells. We always hear phrases like ‘cream rises to the top’ and so on, that if you’re talented, you will be recognized and have glorious success. He threw cold water on that hot hope. He said he’d seen dozens of very talented people never able to break through. So yes, courage is continually trying against the odds.
Esperanza Spalding just won Best New Artist at the Grammys last night. She’s quoted as being influenced by BB King (quoting Jesus) She said, “B.B. King once said ‘You can’t serve two masters,’ and to me, that means you have to decide if music is something that expresses that inner voice and the divine connection that is music, or [is] something created to meet other people’s expectations. I’ve chosen the path of serving that muse.”
It can be a struggle to focus on the work instead of continually thinking of the audience, especially in the performing arts, but it also applies to the literary arts. We do this not only for ourselves. Art is communication. You’re creating a relationship with a reader. It also led me to take a hard look at this new project. I’m not starting from scratch, but I am starting over in some sense. This time with an eye and ear for the muse, not what I think the audience (as opposed to my ideal reader) would like. The war of art continues…