Art

With so many people and ideas, it often feels like everything has been said.

We all are human.

We all want connection.

We all want love.

We all want belonging.

We all want to feel like we as individuals and our work matter.

So we all crave a voice.

And many of us crave fame.

Fame, micro (social media influencers) and macro (folks who have to worry about paparazzi) is a good proxy for our self-worth.

 

There’s this moment as an artist. You enter a flow. You might experience a familiar flow in the work you do. In high school, I experienced it flipping burgers at Steak n’ Shake. At first, the work would be terrible, but as the tempo accelerated I went into a mode of concentration where the time just flew. In college, you experience this with papers. You dread the writing. Tap by tap you pick away in the beginning, not knowing quite what you’ll say or how you’ll get to the end of the paper. But, somehow, you enter the flow. The talent takes over. The work gets done.

As an artist, it is the same flow but way better. Brian Koppelman talks about it in his latest podcast about how to be creative. He says that he wanted to write about finance but didn’t know how, so he studied the finance game until he got it and when he finally did … boom. I experienced this for the first time before I started blogging daily by watching Jon Bellion work. Check out this video to see him in his process. Look at his pure joy. Watch as he gets into the groove and becomes captivated with his own creation. Watch, in other words, how he enters the pocket.

The pocket is this place of elation. The pocket is where we experience the greatest part of our creations. It’s where we’re living our greatest potential, and it’s revealed by ecstasy – the weightlessness of pure expression of soul or genius. I want you to be aware of it because if there’s some calling in you, you should know what you’re missing out on by not striving for it. You’re missing out, plainly, on the fullness of life.

 

This is an unorthodox post. There’s not an idea I present. Instead, I just wanted to share with you the latest album I’ve been listening to: NEOTHEATER by AJR. AJR made a splash in 2017 with their album The Click with songs like “I’m Not Famous” and “Weak.” Their style was unique because it infused catchy pop beats with ostensibly authentic confessionals.

This new album, which I’ve already listened to about five times, is an augmented version of The Click – more insightful and human with better, bigger beats. While it’s mostly a general exploration of the band’s evolving 20-something existential struggles, it also provides a keen representation of their conceptions of their new fame their last album earned them, the propensity to drown out depression and angst with novel entertainment, and the ease of selling out.

Check out this song for a great taste of the album.

What’s right for you
Ask yourself
I’ve read other books
And I don’t have the answers

That’s right for you
Don’t let nobody else
Trample on your visions

You’re finding hope
Don’t let it go
This world will test you

But all you need to know is…

What’s right for you
I know it’s easier said than done
You’re sad, you’re scared, you’re lonely
And you feel like “if only”
And you feel like it’s so confusing

The world seems selfish
Someone tell it
You. Are. Just. A. Kid.

It can’t help itself
We’re rolling down a mineshaft

Covered in coal
Our backs are broke
Craving a mother’s love
And a place to call home

We need more artists
Thank you, God, for kindness and Susan Sontag
Thank you, God, for good books
Campfires, snuggles, and cozy nooks
Folks who think
And movies with Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio

You’re different
You’ve got this
Just trust your conscience
And find friends who think that farts are funny

That smarts are sexier than money
That a Benz is dope but would much prefer
Vision quests, pillow talks, and games on Easter

No one’s perfect
No one’s read enough books
No one has the answers
The world is far too busy
Out there working instead of living

I know, it’s really, really hard
But believe me
Just do what’s right for you

And forget money. And fame. And anything besides what you love because I promise the success isn’t worth it, and the vast majority of the fans and fair-weather friends you make along the way will not care about you.

You’re a human being, not a commodity. You’re a feeler, not a competer.

So ditch the Beamer for a beater and live a life you love.

I just finished Seth Godin’s The Icarus Deception. Like all of Godin’s work, it was excellent. I highly suggest you check it out if you’re interested in creative work.

Here is one of my favorite lines in the book: six daily habits for artists.

  1. Sit alone; sit quietly.
  2. Learn something new without any apparent practical benefit.
  3. Ask individuals for bold feedback; ignore what you hear from the crowd.
  4. Spend time encouraging other artists.
  5. Teach, with the intent of making change.
  6. Ship something that you created.

You can find more great quotes here.

Gazing upon the still waters of my mind
I sit, pondering
Ripples course through, offering visions of those from another life
Love lost, chains broken, the richness of shared sentiment shattered by mistakes unforgiven and habits untempered
Why do we not accept our own humanity? Why do we not recognize our own selfishness? Why do we wallow in our discontents, paradoxically pleased at the torments and losses of those most near?
I suppose it’s ignorance
I suppose it’s capitalism
I suppose it’s the need to replace the void of our self-worth
To assert that, “Indeed, I know better!”
“Indeed, I am better!”
“Indeed, I am the conqueror!”
“Indeed, I am of the higher class!”
“Of the higher status!”
“Of the higher authority!”
“Of the higher sensibility or absolute true opinion!”
“These are the convictions I have accepted, how could they NOT be right?!”
In reality, none of know barely a thing
We are most but willows in the wind, which is the accepted postulates, positions, or proposed notions of those who have come before, those who, for some reason, have set the standard of behavior and practice
Popular will at the same time abhors and celebrates the eccentric
The eccentric is only odd insofar as they are unaccepted
As their grooves deepen and their art made resonant, so their oddness beams in the darkness, spouting glimmering phantasms that inspire genius and move mountains

Ira Glass is the host and executive producer of the popular National Public Radio show, This American Life. Each week, This American Life is broadcast to more than 1.7 million listeners across 500 different radio stations. But it wasn’t always that way.

Success takes persistence. Almost no one starts off great.

Here’s what Glass has to say about it:

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, and I really wish somebody had told this to me.

All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But it’s like there is this gap. For the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good. It’s not that great. It’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not that good.

But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you. A lot of people never get past that phase. They quit.

Everybody I know who does interesting, creative work they went through years where they had really good taste and they could tell that what they were making wasn’t as good as they wanted it to be. They knew it fell short. Everybody goes through that.

And if you are just starting out or if you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week or every month you know you’re going to finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you’re going to catch up and close that gap. And the work you’re making will be as good as your ambitions.

I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It takes awhile. It’s gonna take you a while. It’s normal to take a while. You just have to fight your way through that.

If you prefer to listen to the words, here they are by Glass himself.