WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THE LEFTOVERS?
ART = PROCESS….ART = EXPLORATION….ART = DISCOVERY.
Playing with your materials, learning a new technique for making a something, honing your craftsmanship and your ability to go further and further into your medium….that’s the glory part. That’s the part that makes your heart fly.
One day in the middle of doing all this neat stuff you look up and, gee-wow…you’ve gotten way good at the thing you’ve been called to do. You’ve also got stacks and stacks of, well, stuff.
You now own skill-sets like you wouldn’t believe, but you’re tripping over all the detritus you’ve accumulated and it is interfering with your ability to move any more.
THE DOWNSIDE OF FLYING WITH ANGELS
Novelist Umber Eco has his Franciscan sleuth William of Baskerville expound, “The order that our mind imagines is like a net, or like a ladder, built to attain something. But afterwards you must throw the ladder away, because you discover that, even if it was useful, it was meaningless.”
Art is like that, I am thinking. You work on building some sort of construct that will express or explain some phenomena you’ve encountered. Out of thin air, you make a something.
And once you’ve done it – whether you’ve been successful or not at coming close to whatever truth you think you’ve seen — it sits there. It turns into a thing that has to be named and catalogued, displayed or stored, dusted or shined up or ….whatever.
It isn’t the thing you make that is all-fired important, really.
The process and the journey you make getting to that thing is actually what your heart is aiming for. The making of the thing is the Real in all this….
But then, the thing just sits there.
Stuff piles up in doorways and stacks and piles of stuff cover up windows and take up floor space. Shortly thereafter your creative impulse gets a bad case of constipation and the flow stops.
To be exclusively concerned with art leads to bulging warehouses full of half-remembered insights.
Hmmm. The eternal conundrum for every artist I’ve ever known – myself included.
GUT-THOUGHTS ON ALL THIS
My na’au, my gut, is a bit of a nag. It whines and whimpers and spends a lot of time making up catastrophic futures. I get annoyed with it.
I have to keep reminding myself: Your gut’s job is to be hungry. Its job is to feed you and keep you safe and warm and good stuff like that.
If you can sell the thing you made and get some sort of (decent) renumeration, my gut tells me, you won’t have to make a steady diet of ramen noodles or live in some cardboard box in an alley or something.
My gut points out that it’s really hard to do artwork when you’re living in a cardboard box or under a bush. It do go on….
My gut is in charge of survival scheming. My gut wants me to do marketing and turn the Beauty I make into something that other people will spend good money to get.
The thing is, my gut likes eating. (Good money means better grinds. ‘Nuff said.)
Every creative gets to do this dance. Maybe it’s part of the deal. Who knows?
Obviously, there needs to be some negotiating when heart and gut are at odds. Otherwise all the push-me, pull-you action will drive you crazy.
THE FORK IN THE ROAD
Art that is new or different arises out of NOT being concerned with marketing. Probably there is no way that an artist can make new or different art while keeping an eye on marketing possibilities.
Finding your own voice requires flying off into strange dimensions and risking getting lost. The edge of Making is uncomfortable.
On the other hand, traditional marketing is basically about making other people comfortable.
It is a truth: The traditional marketing mindset is not likely to lead to new or different art. It mostly leads to same-old with maybe one or two not-so-major alterations so that the whatever-it-is can be touted as “new and improved.”
The theory behind the traditional marketing mindset is that people are more likely to buy something with which they are comfortable. Strangeness is not comfortable for most people.
One of the acknowledged best of the marketers today is Seth Godin. Here’s a YouTube video, “Seth Godin: The Art of Marketing,” put together by TheArtOf.com that touches on his thoughts about marketing.
As a confused creative, you might find it more palatable than most marketing riffs. As Godin points out, marketing is no longer just about selling average products to average people. The Internet, he says, has changed all that.
Some art purists would say — in tones of high-brow disdain — that all marketing is “pandering” to what other people like, what other people know, what they find familiar (and what is similar to whatever some star in their firmament owns or possesses).
The purists accuse the ones who are successful at marketing of being pimps, of “selling out,” and so forth and so on.
Mostly, I notice, the creatives who are good at marketing are really pleased when the things they’ve made have found good homes with other people who have made rooms in their lives for them.
The best sign on a shop window, after all, has to be the one that says “SOLD OUT.”
“Product” has to be concerned with marketing or it ain’t product.
The end-result of the process that is Art-for-art’s-sake and not product becomes like those pictures Mommy tapes to the refrigerator and like those misshapen clay ashtrays she proudly displays on the coffee table. Meh….
The thing the purist in you has to remember is this: Other people are not obliged to pay attention to anything that disconcerts them or that requires effort for them to understand. They’ve got enough on their plates already and for the most part it is not a part of their jones to make themselves uncomfortable.
Because of this, they may not be ready to exchange their hard-earned bucks for your unsettling visions.
Developing your own voice, it seems to me, is a good thing. Using it to scream and rant in other people’s ears is not.
Basically what marketing for you as an artist boils down to is learning to hold another person’s hand and taking them little by little into your new-to-them, different world and introducing them to the wonderments you see a little bit at a time.
It becomes another dance. In it you explore their world as much as you encourage them to explore yours. In it, you speak heart-to-heart and try to give them a piece of your vision that they will be able to incorporate and integrate into their own world.
Then, when you’ve done all that, you can ask them for their support. You ask for their permission to keep doing what you do.
If they like it, if they like you, then you will be able to keep on doing your dance (without all of the boxed detritus lying around). And isn’t that all you really want anyhow?
This YouTube video, “Neil Gaiman’s 10 Rules for Success,” was posted by Internet entrepreneur and social media marketeer Evan Carmichael.
It’s part of an ongoing project of his to collect the top ten Rules of Success held by assorted successful people in every field of endeavor. He’s put together videos featuring writers, artists, musicians, film makers as well as assorted business people.
You may want to check out Carmichael’s website, #BELIEVE ( EvanCarmichael.com .) One of my favorites is his book, YOUR ONE WORD: The Powerful Secret to Creating a Business and Life That Matter.
Here’s a poem:
Writers are always selling somebody out.
Poets only sell out themselves…
Or (more often) we chop pieces off ourselves
And try to give away those pieces to
An apathetic crowd.
Writers pull out deerstalker caps and magnifying glasses,
Spend their lives dissecting other people’s movies,
Turning knife-sharp eyes to the task,
Looking for the evidence of the lies
Other people tell themselves and the gullible world.
Writers pull out other people’s entrails,
Poke around looking for signs that tell out loud
The sordid pasts and soggy wet dreams
That died along the way.
Writers look for portends in those entrails,
Omens that will clarify what the future holds.
‘Course the subject of the study is dead by then.
(There’s not much future for a gut-amputee.)
Poets, on the other hand,
Are writers who inflict
Such Holmesian techniques upon themselves.
Apparently poets are immortals…
Or maybe they’re just Promethean.
Maybe they regenerate guts
The way starfish grow back arms.
Poet-guts keep growing back,
Ready for yet another ripping out,
Another mucking about.
Poets hunch over with the scalpel and forceps
In their own gloved hands,
Subjecting their own innards to
The scrutiny of their own x-ray eyes.
Washing-up is optional.
By Netta Kanoho
Picture credit: Collection of Leftovers by Anne Lindblom via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
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16 thoughts on “WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THE LEFTOVERS?”
This is one of the greatest articles about art and making a living with it. You’re describing my exact thoughts!!! This is GOLD and I think you should reach out to more people with this.
There are definitely two paths in art: whether you take the risk living uncomfortably (for most it’s the case) or financially guarantee yourself and find time to do your art. Heart wants one but guts get in the way.
Great article. I really advise you to spread it out to public.
Thank you for the visit and for your comments. I do agree. Heart and guts get into all kinds of arguments about this one! Just one more joy in the world of the Creative! But, hey…you have to admit: we wouldn’t want to abandon the path we’re on. It’s too much fun!
Please do come again….
What the hell is this webpage that got me hooked like a crackhead?
Yes, I formulate that as a question ’cause I need you to explain. Maybe you’re not just pretending to speak to my guts and heart, but you are actually doing it.
I am already a big fan of what you are doing. Well, let’s stay modest. I am a big fan of this page. You definitely successfully portray a fresh vision of what marketing ought to be in an evolving world. You are very forward-thinking and it’s a pleasure to read you.
Thank you for that.
Ah, PierreAlex…you make me smile! My work here is done! Hee! Please do come again!
I really like what you said about the ladder, even though It was useful, it was still meaningless. I often try finding something to craft to show some kind of event that happened to me. I am not the most creative person and often my creations never make it to their full potential. Do you ever find this in your case?
Your gut feeling I think is a good thing to listen to, but not always, I like how you want it to do its easiest job of just being hungry. Do you listen to your gut feeling sometimes?
You’re concept of taking your own way and focusing more on art and less on marketing is very well thought. If every great artist tried selling all their art before wanting to just create it, we might not know all the great names we know today.
What do ya mean, you’re “not the most creative person!” Of COURSE you’re creative! Check out this thing, if you would: http://lifebuiltpoems.com/doing-vs-making/.
Every one of my creative projects are built out of a series of fails. I am WAY good at FAIL and every FAIL gets me to the next thing. I think fails are like the price of admission. You don’t get to good without them.
My decisions are always a combination of Heart, Head and Gut, but if Head or Gut is fighting it out with Heart, most of the time Heart will win. Hey! I have it on the best authority…the Dalai Lama, Jesus, and all those other wise guys say following your heart leads to happy. (It actually works out good most of the time….)
Thanks for your visit Kenny and for your comments. Please come again….
Nice website. Easy to navigate around. A lot of complex things going on here. Not sure exactly what it is though. I know it has to do with poetry but i really didn’t see much of it on the site. You are making the website to hard to understand, Sorry just my opinion. I hope you do well with it and good luck. Rod
Hmmm….Thanks for your comments, Rod. I think that there is a lot of truth in your opinion that the site may be hard to understand. My problem may be that I’ve chosen a complex niche to explore — philosophy and life-meaning and mana (personal power), as well as creativity and the mind-games in which we humans indulge and how they all affect the world and our lives. The poetry is just the jumping-off point for the explorations I am doing. They are a way I personally choose to live out loud.
In order to make the site simple to understand, I suppose I’d need to choose just one drum and beat on that one. That, for me, is not an option I like. I don’t like telling other people what to do. I like presenting choices and options for them to look over and decide what is right for themselves. This makes for a complexity that may be a hard sell. I don’t know.
Thank you for your thought-provoking comments. Please do come again….
Thank you for the chance to look inside and think about my process. You spoke aloud the thoughts I have and the direction to take. But, I do love the clutter and my particular Art…is mine! I’m not too sure I want to let it go. You have given me a lot to think over and maybe I should begin to let go some of my “Leftovers”. I guess my heart is just too strong for my gut.
Your poem is excellent. Fantastic use of words to give a vivid image, and a perfect ending line. Loved it!
Thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts. All of us can only follow our hearts. Sometimes, though, it is a cool thing to make more room so you can have other heart-things to hold. Glad the post got ya thinking!
I’m also glad you liked the poem.
Please do come again….
Your gut feeling I think is a good thing to listen to, but not always, I like how you want it to do its easiest job of just being hungry. Do you listen to your gut feeling sometimes?You’re concept of taking your own way and focusing more on art and less on marketing is very well thought. If every great artist tried selling all their art before wanting to just create it, we might not know all the great names we know today
Armando, thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts.
I do think that being able to balance gut and heart feelings are an important skill for any creative to develop, but you are right. If you start listening to your gut too early, and only think about how you’re going to market this thing you’re doing before you barely even start, it is quite likely that you will not come up with anything new or true to you. Timing’s the thing, I think.
Please do come again….
There are many possibilities to achieve success and without marketing I like the way you think, but you always need someone to encourage and help you. It’s nice to have a mentor sometimes, someone who can instruct you not to go wrong ??
I think everything revolves around marketing and that success in marketing is very important for functioning today.
Thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts, Dragan.
I do agree that having a mentor and an interested role model (or two or ten) is a very fine asset. I have been blessed with many and every one has been a help to me. (Thanks, eh, guys!)
Please do come again.
This certainly is the challenge that all creative people face. Our homes fill up with the masses of tools and materials that we use to stimulate creativity and what to do with it.
Do we box it up to sit in the basement in the dark until in exasperation we fling it to the tip or give it away? But without this pool of things to play in there can be no creativity.
I tend to move these leftovers around my house, give them a dust once in a while, and feel endeared to their existence in my life. Nice poem.
The leftover problem is a biggie for all prolific Creatives, I suppose. Personally, I tend to hang on to other people’s stuff rather than my own. For me these things serve as inspiration and goads for making new stuff, I suppose.
My own work either gets sold, are gifts for my heart-people, or become future materials for new work. I don’t know how many times I’ve just ripped up the old stuff and incorporated them into new whatevers.
Of course, since my own artwork is mostly made up of collected junks anyway, it’s not like they ever stop being future materials — even when they’re incorporated in some form or other that I’ve made. If I can pry the things apart, they turn into new possibilities that can be repurposed.
The process and the puzzle is a heck of a lot more interesting than whatever I did with them.
I will keep anything that is a big leap in developing some aspect of my playing, but there really isn’t much of that around.
It’s like once I’ve made a thing it’s the insights I’ve gained that I value, not the thing itself. I know, it’s kinda weird, that. I do the same thing with my writing as well.
Thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts, Lily. I do appreciate you. Please do come again.