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Distractions and the modern artist

Anti twitter mouse padIndeed, these are strange times we live in. Whether you’re a writer, filmmaker, musician, painter, or other, there are so many resources and so much technology at our Disposer—er, disposal (Don’t know that one? Hey, Google it.)—it’s easy to get lost in the crashing waves. Of course, once that happens, before you know it, that magnum opus you’ve been working on, or that celluloid gem, or that timeless composition, falls by the wayside and fades into the distance, rendering you nothing more than a man or woman lost at sea, treading water, all purpose and drive gone, living one breath to the next, merely surviving. Or maybe just taking up space better suited to another individual who hasn’t lost the plot. Is that an island you see far away, its palm trees jutting happily toward blue skies? Or was it a flash of shark fin, rushing happily toward its next meal? A meal that looks disconcertingly like—you. Corporatising of the arts sure drove a stake into heart and soul, but to lay blame where most of it belongs, The Suits didn’t descend on a land of wild and free creators and impose their dollars-and-cents will, it’s artists themselves who shot their own feet in the mad, mad 21st century dash to sell-out for—well, for nothing at all. It’s as if the approving nod of the Man Behind The Desk means more than the quality and intent of the work. When this mentality belongs to the home team, we’re as good as chum in the water. I’ll be damned, it was a shark after all.

Important artists have always gone against the grain, usually by default and not by pre-planning (those calculating jokers can’t help but give themselves away and get sussed-out early on), owing as much of what they do to whatever era they’re born into as to that antenna they all possess. That strange, inexplicable link to whatever dimension it is that delivers those (un)holy ideas to their eyes, fingers, and psyches. If you have a touch of this, if you’ve lain awake at night staring at the ceiling, unable to quiet the call to action—or just not wanting to—then you know of what I speak here. There’s an unfortunate concept, traditionally referred to as the “Great American Novel” and it’s usually addressed with reverence, or maybe that’s just on this side of the pond. Personally, I call it a load of horseshit. Whether it’s fame-mongering or sad excuses for a lack of vision and/or execution, the so-called romantic notion of an artist’s first, or greatest, work collecting dust in a drawer somewhere for years, or even decades, is nothing but a slap in the face to the muse, if not an outright fantasy. A campfire legend told by those with neither the skill to create, nor the intuition to grasp, one person’s finely-honed vision.

It’s highly doubtful that Edgar Allan Poe focus-grouped any of his manuscripts, that much is evident just by reading them. The result, of course, is a dark body of work that’s not only risen above its appointed genre, but has shot right to the heart of the human condition itself. Poe’s voice will never die, and one reason for that is because he was able to heed the call, not the cliques that glom onto creators and creative circles. The barnacles, the bean counters. You can bet they were around, although with social networking in the 1800s limited to getting yourself in the room with your object of affection or condemnation , not nearly as omnipresent as our current day sycophantism. And as our ever-vigilant and tireless editor here at TIH pointed out, modern-day maestro Stephen King doesn’t tweet or Facebook. What does that say? Nothing, in and of itself. Or maybe it highlights the idea that Bachman’s got enough going on in his real life and work, that maintaining his friend count, follower count, or virtual ‘status’ just isn’t all that goddamn important. I mean, if we get down to brass tacks, wouldn’t it be disappointing if the guy who gave birth to Jack Torrance was online every hour, snapping photos of his dinner plate? Talk about a buzz-kill.

I’m currently writing from a cabin in Middle-of-Nowhere Arkansas, up high on a mountain with no neighbours or cell phone reception. I’ll be moving on, but for now, I’ll soak it in, enjoy every second, and wring every bit of inspiration from it that I can. Solitude’s not for everyone. It’d drive some people crazy, like the aforementioned Mr. Torrance, but I see it as a gift. In our current climate, it’s getting rarer and rarer to escape, to clear our heads, to focus. Not just on our work, our art, our inner selves and our loved ones, but focus in general. Blip, beep, bing, ring, rattle, pop, ping, ding, zing, pow, you name it. We’re tethered to technological shock treatment and the scariest thing is, we like it. I say we, because we’re all in this together, on this spinning rock ‘til the end, but I really mean you (and you know who you are, certain readers), because I don’t subscribe and never did. You can keep the virtual living, the high school cafeteria-ising of great professions, the stay-connected mentality—even at the expense of personal evolution—and the whole Generation Me, Me, Me ball of wax. It’s all yours. Here, pretend we’re playing Hot Potato. I can’t get rid of it soon enough. It’s not that I don’t wish our species the best, because I do, believe me. I just don’t know if we’d recognise a good thing—or the real thing—if it came along. Again, I’m not absolutely certain, it’s just a calculated deduction—a hunch, if you will. Prove me wrong. Yes, it’s a dare.


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