I’ve started on it. Facebook, Twitter, all that ‘promote-yourself-without-promoting-yourself’ crap. And there’s a risk to it. It’s important for an artist to get back out there, into the world, after being sequestered a long time in the desolation of their own creative space.
It’s important. But it’s also important not to turn into a crowd-pleasing hack. The demands of constant communication mean you’re always performing, always turning out a new nice happy resonant phrase, so that people will like you, comment on you, say nice things. After all, this is also part of the being an artist. Getting an audience, cultivating it, being grateful to it. It’s why all those pop stars keep saying thank you to their fans.
But the thing about being an artist is not only living by what you create, it is also, more importantly, being loyal always and only to your creative space. To remember this space is intellectual, spiritual, moral. Always and only your own: your ideas, your spirit, your morality. The minute it becomes too openly shared, you’re in trouble.
The artist is in this sense fundamentally bound to solidarity while remaining basically asocial. Why? Because you share your private space too much and suddenly it becomes crowded with a hydra-headed monster you struggled to escape in the first place: approval, popularity, fitting in, conforming to other people’s sensibilities. And the minute this happens, your creativity, a jealous mistress, flees! As do your happiness, your reason for living, your love of yourself, all pfft. Gone!
The next step, inevitably, is being nice and kind and trying not to ruffle any feathers. And before you know it, you’re strung up, feet first in that great trap of ‘being liked,’ of constantly getting those folks to say Bravo, calling you the genius, and it’s all very easy to fall into, get stuck in, lose your freedom in. Because if you’re an artist worth the name, you’ll have been out of it for so long, you’ll have been alone so long, you’ll want to be liked quite desperately, you’ll be like an abandoned starving animal that’s finally being fed and petted.
The key is to remain free. Not to be excessively grateful. To be still and always that street dog or alley cat. Never trade in your freedom for that nice free meal and the little avid petting. That’s the key. Not because those people aren’t nice, but because pleasing people isn’t what you do. Your freedom is vital. Will people understand this? If you scratch their face as they try to come too close, will they think badly of you? Or will they have the grace to understand this is who you are, and that respecting your world while leaving you alone is essential to continue getting what they like from you: your art?
Tough gamble. People are more forgiving with alley cats than they are with artists. Niceness is hard to escape once you’ve doled it out too liberally. Even for you the starved alley-cat artist, it’s hard to run away from this modern game of Twitter and Facebook which is all about that drivel of being liked, smart, gorgeous, popular etc. The problem with all this shit is, I’ve figured it out, it’s like being back in an American highschool. A nightmare space of constant tension, where the whole effort, every single day, is to be popular. Where you come home feeling good if you felt popular on that day, if you said and did the right things and got a few hugs, smiles and slaps on the back from the right people. I mean, even if you’re not ‘popular’ you try to be popular among those who are not. The goal being always to find your own element, your people, your posse. Where you rule!
I mean don’t get me wrong. It feels good to have friends again, to feel you’re part of something, to feel like you’re making a difference to people and the way they think and feel and so on. But there are no messiahs, at least I don’t believe in them, so I don’t want to be anybody special. I want you to read me, buy my books so I can live, but I never want to feel (outside of my own head) that I’m saying anything super-fantastically extraordinary. I mean if you think it, great, but remember, I didn’t do it for you. I’m saying the same thing I always did, that I wanted to. That I, ME, MYSELF always wanted to. I didn’t say it because it meant something to you. I didn’t do that then and I shouldn’t have to do it now.
This is what Hollywood misses. And the big publishers. Once an artist does something, writer or actor, he and she are asked to do it over and over again by these brainless big guys. And it would seem most of the ‘fans’ respond to this too. There is such an excess of lonely lovelessness everywhere, we all seem to want to be liked constantly: fans and artists. The fan likes to feel his desires are being satisfied, the artist just wants to be liked.
But you feel like shit when you’re doing it. And it has a name. It’s called pandering. It’s what the media and Hollywood and the big publishers are doing all the time. Not to mention governments. The exceptions, they call art, culture. Ha ha, hilarious. In effect, habitual pandering = entertainment, snobbish stuff the audience won’t get = art.
Bullshit I say. Any artist must have the balls to remain free and independent. It is hard, I don’t even know what it means yet. I mean if they like everything you put up, are you pandering? Yes, if you’re unconsciously trying to come up with things they’ll like. It’s inevitable. Your desire for approval takes over quickly. When you don’t get their happy comments, you figure out what ‘won’t sell.’ There’s a subtle censoring that sets in about stuff you know they won’t like. I know it, I’ve been noticing it in myself on these ‘social networks.’
I even dreamed about being back in college last night. But no. I don’t want to go back to college. I don’t want easy hand-outs (although some money would help!). Even if those happy comments feel good, if you’re getting them all the time, they’ll become a little stale, a trifle poisonous, and quickly. It is, in the end, much more important for your sanity, authenticity and well-being, that you remain yourself.
How? Well if I told you that, hell, if even I knew how, we wouldn’t be individuals now, would we?