Reality Check

I’m a big fan of a book called Art and Fear, written by David Bayles and Ted Orland. Whenever I lead a workshop I inevitably read from their book to writers or songwriters who come to my house to work on their art. Last week was no exception. There were four of us here – all struggling (and succeeding) in different ways.

Here are the questions David and Ted start their book with:

How does art get done? Why, often, does it not get done? And what is the nature of the difficulties that stop so many who start?

They describe how in modern times, artists are not shored-up the way they were in the past – by the Church, for instance, their clan, or by ritual dances, chants, and songs that were integral to the clan one belonged to. The lack of support artists feel these days has consequences. Here’s an example of something I could read to writers in my living room. You might imagine them nodding their heads in understanding:

Today almost no one feels shored up. Today artwork does not emerge from a secure common ground… Making art now means working in the face of uncertainty; it means living with doubt and contradiction, doing something no one much cares whether you do, and for which there may be neither audience nor reward. Making the work you want to make means setting aside these doubts so that you may see clearly what you have done, and thereby see where to go next. Making the work you want to make means finding nourishment within the work itself. 

Whenever I read this book, I’m comforted. It’s nice to know that others can put words to the feelings I have. It helps me carry on with the work I love.

I was watching John Stewart last night. I tend to mute the commercials, but I have trouble taking my eyes off the screen even without the sound. It’s intoxicating and I’m curious what’s for sale. It occurred to me for the umpteenth time that what I’m selling isn’t what the broader population is buying. We’re inundated with the slickest, fastest, sexiest everything. But I’m not interested in being slick or fast. And sexiness is a private issue at my age. But I was born here, and I’ve grown up thinking my worth as an artist has to do with popularity, that if I could just get a hit single or a virus going on youtube or Facebook, that my work would be validated.

But then Ted and David come back into my thoughts:

In the past few centuries, Western art has moved from unsigned tableaus of orthodox religious scenes to one-person displays of personal cosmologies. “Artist” has gradually become a form of identity, which (as every artist knows) often carries with it as many drawbacks as benefits. Consider that if artist equals self, then when (inevitably) you make flawed art, you are a flawed person, and when (worse yet) you make no art, you are no person at all.

Strong words, and worth thinking about.

A friend of mine called last week. She’s a musician too and understands how it feels to finish a project that the world hardly notices. She said something like, “it breaks my heart to think that this music of yours isn’t being heard.” I was glad to hear her empathy. She’s worked hard over the years too. Then I read this:

But until your ship comes in, the only people who will really care about your work are those who care about you personally. Those close to you know that making the work is essential to your wellbeing. They will always care about your work, if not because it is great, then because it is yours – and this is something to be genuinely thankful for.

And I am.

 

PS: You can find Art and Fear: Observations on The Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking at Amazon or by ordering it from your local bookseller. For those of you who make art (and for me, all that takes is getting out of bed in the morning) I highly recommend you buy a copy.

And if you’re wondering what prompted what I’ve written here this morning, I’ve attached my first royalty statement for Journey – the one that would normally be the biggest; the one I was more or less waiting for. At first, I was sort of stunned, then I laughed because it’s so pathetic, then I was thrilled to see that people were listening in Mexico and Europe. Mostly, though,  I’m sharing it to educate. I figure the more you know, the more you’ll support the musicians and artists you love. Thank you!

$14.65 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Apple iTunes
$4.28
for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through eMusic
$1.16
for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Rhapsody
$0.59
for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through iTunes-Mexico
$0.11
for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Spotify
$0.10
for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Spotify
$0.09
for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through iTunes Match – Americas
$0.08
for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Rhapsody
$0.07
for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Spotify
$0.05
for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Spotify
$0.05
for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Spotify
$0.05
for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Spotify
$0.05
for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Spotify
$0.04
for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Simfy
$0.04
for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through 24-7
$0.04
for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Spotify
$0.04
for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through iTunes Match – Americas
$0.04
for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Spotify
$0.04
for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Spotify
$0.04
for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Spotify
$0.03
for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Spotify
$0.02
for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Simfy
$0.02
for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Spotify
$0.02 f
or DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Spotify
$0.02
for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Spotify
$0.02
for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Spotify
$0.02
for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Spotify
$0.01
for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Simfy
$0.01
for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Mondia Media
$0.01
for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Deezer
$0.01
for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through iTunes Match – Europe
$0.01
for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Spotify
$0.01
for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through Spotify

I think the total was something like $21.82


Oh my.

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