And to all young artists who are at the beginning of their hopefully long, most times rewarding yet sometimes torturous, career in the arts ……. some hints.
For the young who want to
Talent is what they say
you have after the novel
is published and favorably
reviewed. Beforehand what
you have is a tedious
delusion, a hobby like knitting.
Work is what you have done
after the play is produced
and the audience claps.
Before that friends keep asking
when you are planning to go
out and get a job.
Genius is what they know you
had after the third volume
of remarkable poems. Earlier
they accuse you of withdrawing,
ask why you don’t have a baby,
call you a bum.
The reason people want M.F.A.’s,
take workshops with fancy names
when all you can really
learn is a few techniques,
typing instructions and some-
body else’s mannerisms
is that every artist lacks
a license to hang on the wall
like your optician, your vet
proving you may be a clumsy sadist
whose fillings fall into the stew
but you’re certified a dentist.
The real writer is one
who really writes. Talent
is an invention like phlogiston
after the fact of fire.
Work is its own cure. You have to
like it better than being loved.
Speaking of love, you must love your art as dearly as towards a person.
In my home, next to the dining table where I can view it daily, is nestled a tiny, fairly faded post card reproduction of ‘Pygmalion and Galatea’ by French sculptor Jean Leon Gerome. I keep it as a reminder of the power of artistic intention.
Basically, the painting is of an ancient myth where the sculptor Pygmalion falls in love with his own artistic creation. This love is so strongly felt that the sculpture literally comes to life.
My personal interpretation of this story is that, as artists, you and I have to love our work with such an intensity that what we create becomes embodied with a life that is as viscerally connected to us as with our own children.
To be frank, most people will have no understanding of what this means and they will continually, from ignorance, refer to our works as though they were just objects or things. Certainly, nothing imbued with heart or soul.
But be kind to these people, as they know not what they talk about.
Lastly, you should familiarise yourself with “Letters to a Young Poet” by Rainer Maria Rilke. Beautifully descriptive and insightful, here’s a taste:
“As you unfold as an artist, just keep on, quietly and earnestly, growing through all that happens to you. You cannot disrupt this process more violently than by looking outside yourself for answers that may only be found by attending to your innermost feeling.”
“Allow your judgments their own undisturbed development, which, like any unfolding, must come from within and can by nothing be forced or hastened. Everything is gestation and then birth. To allow each impression and each embryo of a feeling to complete itself in the dark, in the unsayable, the not-knowing, beyond the reach of one’s own understanding, and humbly and patiently to await the dawning of a new clarity: that alone is the way of the artist — in understanding as in creating.”
Stay true to the muse that resides within you. A great life awaits.