Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Achin' To Be


Well she's kind of like an artist, sitting on the floor, never finishes, she abandons, never shows a soul-The Replacements

Something which struck both Tracy and I when we read the Patti Smith book was how it sounded so much like us when we were just kids ourselves, but unlike Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe, we didn't become critically acclaimed and famous artists when we grew up, we just grew older. I think that is an important part of the book, something which I think Patti Smith understands, that there are a lot of brilliant people in the world whose names we will never know, whose art will remain obscure. In our discussion, I pointed out that we weren't in the center of the universe artistically, we were in Portland and Tracy brought up grunge and I said, "yeah, but it isn't like there was a place for artists like us in the grunge scene, we would have been groupies or girlfriends." Not to mention, we were worshipping at the feet of the great god Academia at the time, everything else was considered secondary, shallow, less significant and insubstantial. But more importantly, what I don't think either of us really had was that one person who believed in us more than we believed in ourselves, who prodded us to work when we didn't feel up to it, and who had the marketing and self-promoting skills that we both so sorely lack. Almost all the other actors, writers, choreographers with whom I have collaborated are cursed with the same ambivalence with regards to self-promotion (it feels so arrogant and cheesy) and the same crippling lack of confidence in the work we contribute. Just as the world is filled with artists toiling away in obscurity, there are probably even more who resemble the she of whom Paul Westerberg sings. Twenty years ago, I wouldn't have seen a resemblance between me and the she of the song, in fact, I would have said this would never be me (just as I have said I will not be Kevin Spacey's father with boxes of unread, unpublished stories for my son to stumble upon after my death), but now, I am ashamed because despite all my youthful ambition and all the love and privileges with which I have been blessed, the words ring a little too true. For, I have spent years telling myself I am not any good, telling myself that I am a cliche, just another girl with a journal who wants to be a writer. I have mocked myself for writing poetry, in particular rhyming and metered verse, and self-revelatory essays (though songs never go out of style and memoirs just grow ever more popular), in part because of the aforementioned stereotype. I have indulged in the belief that all the poems, performance pieces, essays, plays I have written do not count, that only fiction writing has value and I will only be worthy when I get a novel published. I have a bunch of stories in my head, but the actual act of writing fiction always seems wrong for me, and I have been telling myself that it is this feeling of wrongness, the hardness of it, which makes it valid, makes it so worthy of pursuit. And it isn't just with words, it is also with visual art. Even as I created, I told myself the work wasn't any good, that I was not a "real artist" and all the photographs and collages and paintings are all are just for me, that no one else would see them as worthwhile (and when someone might compliment my work, I would think they were just being kind, that they didn't really mean it). And what kills me is that it isn't only me, I know so many brilliant writers who no one has read, songwriters whose music is better than most of what is on the radio right now which few will ever hear, actors who will never play the roles they could have remade in their own image, visual artists whose work remains unviewed, so many people struck down by demons inside and out. Robin Hitchcock once sang, "The bastards that destroy our lives are sometimes just ourselves, but mostly, they're invisible."

How do you kill something you can't even see?

Still, as daunting a task as it may be, identifying the beast is the first step towards slaying it. So I am sharpening my sword and polishing my armor and I am riding into battle because no one knows the names of the knights who didn't try to kill the dragon. Invisible or not, I have to at least try, because love this song as I do, it cannot be playing at my funeral.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Tracy said...

OK, so what are we doing?

5:34 PM, May 22, 2012  
Blogger Tracy said...

Ok, so what are we doing?

5:35 PM, May 22, 2012  

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