Microwaves, computer applications, internet hook-ups, ten minute meals; it seems our generation is hardwired to want everything instantly. The now is even too late. We want everything yesterday with the fastest wireless connection possible. To call it a condition is fair, but to call it our sickness is more accurate, especially when our wants don’t align to the rules with how life works. Artists for all of our awareness, and conscious thinking and creating, have fell victim to this too.
We want to be Picasso before Pablo; we want the factory before exploring being Andy. Even more vicious, the wanting kills us. Well, not physically, it kills the art we can create. We want to get straight to the wine sipping, Kanye West handshakes and art galas, and just skip over the wanting. The hunger is what even gives us a story to tell. The wanting is what even helps people connect to the work and feel like they need it. The wanting is the process. The wanting is where we begin to create the more amazing work. I say ‘more amazing’ with purpose because I’m not here to say you can’t or won’t be content, successful, and still making mind blowing art, but there is a bit of a trick to it. One can’t really know success without being familiar with being impoverished. One can’t really understand beauty without knowing ugly. The connotation of those words and what it really means are different things. Impoverished shouldn’t be associated with shame and ugly shouldn’t be linked with unattractive. It’s just the gritty stuff, the ugly stuff that gives your art character and your chuck taylors a bit of personality.
Why do you think Jay-Z goes back to his crack days or why Basquiat found solace in painting primitive characters and ideas from childhood? The ugly period is many times the most inspiring period. Not just inspiring, but truly paramount when we discuss who are you going to be as an artist. What is it that you believed in and couldn’t live without when you couldn’t make a living off of creating you art? What subjects repeated in your brain as you repeatedly consumed ramen noodle soup? Those are the questions that a great artist has to know to be a great artist for a great amount of time. There’s not much science to life or success, but that’s a common rule.
We want to tell a story, a hardship, but somehow not have to actually live that hardship. It sounds plain silly when I say it plain, but our wants aren’t quite inline to what we need if we get what we want. We need to be able to talk about something, to hurt about something, to feel about something. Imagine a Janis Joplin with no heart-break or Bob Dylan penning “Like A Rolling Stone” while living a lavish life. That’s simply not how creativity and inspiration works.
The challenge I present you, myself, and everyone else with a creative mind that yearns for sweet success, and those Type-A personalities that can hardly wait to tell your Algebra teacher, “I told you I would never need this” is to sleep, live, and love your wanting. Live with the fact that every struggle, rejection, and set-back is the difference in hue that you need to make your story a story. The desire can feel like a bubbling kryptonite in your stomach, I know, but what I’m telling you it is once your on stage, on a wall, in a speaker, in a book (God, I hope, I’m in a book); it’s going to be the wanting that gives you something to talk about and a reason to get better. Marry the want of your dream because when your dream is a reality, you’ll realize the desire is what kept you asleep and numb to realities that could have woke you up all along. Oh, and drink and smoke a lot more. That helps too.