April 17, 2003

From the Horse's Mouth

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Everybody wants to be a star. Just try to find a person who has never wanted to be a musician, a painter, a writer, an architect etc. The desire runs in different concentrations through our collective veins. Most people attempt to compose a song or write a story or paint a portrait. The first attempt usually proves to be amateurish, and too often the dream of artistic creation is put away into a corner with the hope that it might someday ripen on its own. Some might say people give up so quickly because it is hard to create. This is true, but is difficulty the only deterrent? I believe part of the problem lies in the way the mysique surrounding artists influences our thinking about great art. We have forgotten that art is partially a craft. Like carpentry, artistic creation needs to be honed with endless hours of effort and repetition. Yet the process of sitting in a room playing the same note hundreds of times seems so distant from the glory we associate with art. From early adolescence on, one can’t escape the legends of Jimi Hendrix picking up a guitar and instantly being a great guitar player, William S. Burroughs’ frenzied composition of Naked Lunch during two weeks of heroin withdrawal, or the stories of 10 year old Mozart composing symphonies. Unfruitful rehearsals, armies of overflowing waste paper baskets and piles of crumpled sketches are not nearly as exciting. Consequently, the conception of artistic creation is skewed. Too many believe that if there is a song or poem one is meant to write it will uncontrollably spew forth like some god-ordained miracle regardless of what one does or doesn’t do. The sad truth is that thousands of great novels and songs were never written because some guy’s first short story was not hailed as the arrival of the next Thomas Pynchon or some girl hit a few bum notes during her first ever open mic night. It is sad to imagine the discouraged poet walking home thinking “I guess I just don’t have it in me” and resigning himself to studying business. It is even sadder to think that this happens all the time and utter discouragement is often the first reaction because of the mystique attached to the spontaneity of genius. In Crime and Punishment Raskolnikov devises a theory of historic greatness clearly demarcating “those that can” and “those that can’t”. With the cult of the artist so strong many assume a fatalistic view of art that neatly divides everyone into “artists” and “non-artists.” At the end of the day too many spend too much time quietly waiting for their private genius to strike them, instead of striking it first.

Peace, “the dark horse”

Archived article by Maxim Pozdorovkin