Riss did a recent post that got my teeth to gnashing. She did a short rant on creative-types who spend more time talking about their work than they do DOING it.
Yup, everyone out there just thought of somebody. No use denying it, I know you did.
That's because they're everywhere. And the minute they sense the creativity in you, they descend those wraith things that guard Azkabhan, trying to suck the warmth and the life from your art.
These ghoulish creatures have been possessed by the spirit of anti-art.
Some, as in Riss's post, talk endlessly about what their work *should* be saying to people. They'll go on and on (and on-- you didn't have to be anywhere, did you?) about statements made by light and shadow in their poetry, about PostModern Deconstructionalsim and the New Structure in their dance pieces, about hearing forms of visual music in their paintings and about how, really, their work challenges the essence of what we have, until now, thought of as a novel, painting, sculpture, dance, mime, poem, song, pile of crap lying on the floor that you were about to clean.
This is one reason I steer clear of university coffee houses. These assholes are everywhere, but at least at the pub their words are smaller.
As long as they actually, you know, *have* some work to talk about, I find these folks the most forgivable. A certain amount of self-promotion is necessary to pay the rent, and we all prefer an artist who can give a coherent and concise teaser about their work, the 'elevator pitch'. Key words being 'concise' and 'coherent'.
Others love to tell you about the work they'd make, if only it were possible. This bunch usually think they're visual artists of some stripe (painters, sculptors, installationists, etc), though I have known a fair few writers who were only too happy to tell me (at length) about how they'd write this great novel if only
a) they had a computer,
b) the computer was a laptop,
c) the laptop had a more intuitive word-processing program,
d) they had silence in which to write,
e) they had crowd noise around them, people talking and so on
f) the computer didn't make that little hum
g) pens and paper didn't cramp their hand
etc. etc. et freaking cetera...
Once, I thought these poor souls actually wanted to make something. Sadly, it took longer than it should have for me to realize that what they really wanted was to suck me in to their world of slack.
And then of course, there's the garden variety failure. Older men seem to delight in this role, but it's not a closed shop by any means. You know The Failure, you meet him all the time. When I was a kid he'd say, "Painting, eh? I used to paint a bit m'self, even had a picture on the wall in a coffee shop once. No money in it, of course. No, you'll soon come to your senses as I did and sell car upholstery over the telephone."
Now, they usually like to tell me how they had an idea for a novel once. It was going to be about a financial services advisor who lives in a van and solves supernatural crimes. Had a really great twist in mind, too... (furtive look from side to side) (hoarse whisper) the ghosts weren't really ghosts at all. They were going to be these old guys, dressed up in bedsheets and roller skates, pretending to be ghosts!
I joke, but these Spirits of Anti-Art aren't funny. If you allow them, they will derail every last bit of creativity, sucking you dry until there's little left but rattling bones. You'll drift up to that shabby kid typing in Starbucks and say, "Screenplay, eh? I have a fantastic idea, uses shadow and light to challenge the very essence of linear storytelling. I'd write it, if only I could use electronics underwater in a sensory isolation tank. Of course, nobody actually makes a living in movies, that's all just smoke and mirrors and accounting tricks. I should know, been an accountant for..."
Until you see the light fade from that kid's eyes, too...
'Tokyo: A Biography' (2016). Earthquakes and Crow Goblins - *Stephen Mansfield, Tokyo: A Biography. Disasters, Destruction and Renewal: The Story of an Indomitable City (Tokyo: Tuttle, 2016). Pictured above is the ...
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