To be an money making artist who keeps his soul
When entrenched in my “artist role” often any thought of theoretical business savvy shakes me up in distressing way thus interfering in my conquest for getting paid nice for my hard work.(And, as I believe I’ve mentioned before, since childhood the belief that art is not and cannot be “work” or a “job” or a thing which results in money one deserves to have earned… the talking point that devoting all my time to writing must mean I’m “a lazy good for nothing bum”—I mean, today, in hindsight, I can see the cynical presumptuousness, probably with very good intentions to shield me from the scathing blows of how more often than not an aspiration for a successful career in art ends in that cliché “starving artist” stereotype—but when you’re only a little lad between the ages of 10 and starting your first few years of college, and those closest to you hold the most weight in terms of view points you most deeply and thoroughly consider – even if you’re inclined to disagree—it can be bloody hard to say 1) it’s not objective to talk down a goal. What’s objective is to note the most likely obstacles to come one’s way and mastermind with our loves ones how to obliterate those obstacles
- It’s also not nice, loving, or constructive, interpersonally or culturally to ever try and manipulate someone to disown and disavow her or his own dream and opt instead for your insecurity related to the matter. Of course, that is not to say one should be uncritical. Suppose I told my mom I wanted to be a porn actor. First of all, these days this may still be quite an uncomfortable conversation in general. But I can see multiple angles to discussing seriously such an ambition. From one point of view, sex is a lovely, sacred, and beautiful thing. If a person wants to make sex movies for a living, more power to them. However… and correct me if I’m wrong—for I’ve had a debate on this very specific conversation with a friend of mine several times; furthermore, I say this, not to perpetuate any sort of stereotype or to diminish diversity of sexual interests—it is the case that often you have a young person, female, whose self-esteem may be low, and to mention, if she is what many porn people call “barely legal” and thus not yet even around 25, her brain might not be fully developed! It would make sense— whether a he or a she or a xe—to raise questions as to how self-esteem or lackthereof plays a role in this ambition. If I want to be a porn star, why? That is to say, is it because I think I am good for nothing else and that this is the only discernable path I can identify to make a little money or is it because I simply have a passion for sex? MY POINT is this: unless we see unequivocally that a loved one’s ambition is inherently self-destructive or socially destructive, that it may merely be a hard challenge does not make it ethical or acceptable to in any way, shape, or form, attempt dissuading.
- I actually think – I may have said I thought this when I was a kid but did not have ample evidence to support it, academically or experientially—we artists find ourselves in a rather complex socio-cultural position. I do want to make clear that I view no job as inherently beneath or above another—to help a culture thrive and help expand one’s appreciation of a culture and the wonders of human living, virtually every niche offers a beautiful peace of the human jig-aw enigma. The complexities of the artist are not so much wildly unique in that some serious unpleasantness often accompanies the passion, furthermore. For example, I feel bad for doctors, however much money they might make, that many of them are on call for emergency ranging from prescription refill to needing to drive back to the hospital at 3am after a 14 hour shift. My wife and mother are both nurses so I have seen how not just the doctors but much of the medical community endures this burden. How about the people who clean porta-potties? Who shovel road kill off the road? Even the model has a burden theoretically… how does that line go from that Alanis Morrissette song go?
I wish I could tell the world 'Cause you're such a pretty thing when you're done up properly I might want to marry you one day if you watch that weight and keep your firm body
–From the song “Hands Clean”
The complexities of our jobs
Having run for political office and having struck conversations with politicians from multiple parties in multiple roles, I even have sympathy for the rare decent politician. We get a little annoyed when they “flip flop” as to hold on to power for example. But supposing you know that what’s at stake is worse…that those running against you would destroy the barely upheld structures of justice even more so? And if you just have to change a position or two to please enough people? I mean… I don’t quite approve but I also don’t…how do I put it… I would not disown necessarily, in every context anyway. Take Joe Biden. To be frank with you (or to be Joe with you…just kidding…taking from a joke I recall my younger brother once reading from a joke book decades ago) I’m not deeply fond of Biden. I think he is too much the flip-flopper and find it hard to pin point where his convictions most deeply lay. I find the way he appeared to deal with his son’s ties to big biz just around the time that Biden himself had been trying to influence Ukrainian leadership… I find it to be insulting actually. As if he thinks we’re stupid and that how things appear are of no significance. Furthermore, in my view, to whatever degree Biden knew of his son’s involvement and didn’t either speak out against it or try to stop it, I think that’s somewhere between mild corruption or flamboyant arrogance, even if only inadvertent. I mean, at the very damn least he could have made it blatantly clear that he too agrees it looks bad! NONETHELESS, when you bring to mind the context of our current federal situation under Trump, at least Biden picks a good group of people to mastermind with, at least he listens, at least he is willing to admit when he’s wrong (sometimes), at least one can get a sort of feeling he does actually care.
But all of this was to set the stage for what I believe is the artist’s complex plight. Unlike many industries, the artist often does not seek to obtain that 9-5 job, or that specifically fixed range of time in which she or he offers some other some form of service, labor, et cetera. The artist, quite like the creator of some sort of tangible PRODUCT to be sold, merely needs buyers, investors, sponsors, donors, publishers, the interest of gallery/museum associates, et al.
This brings me to my second point. A deeply devoted artist—one who will devote all her or his time to further advancing the QUALITY of his or her artistic output—is inherently ruining her or his “day job” marketability (unless we are talking rote minimum wage labor sort of “work”) because what others have invested in qualifying for a desires position is more apparent on their resume. What does an artist have for a resume but a portfolio and whatever the artist has done to keep her or himself financially afloat enough?
Furthermore, an artist rarely is in a context where he or she “applies” for something. Sometimes an artist may “apply” for or “enter a contest” and forgive me if I seem a touch cynical but to what degree are such “awards” POLITICAL? I think of one of my favorite writers, for example: Robert Musil. I think along with Thomas Mann, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Marcel Proust, Milan Kundera, and David Foster Wallace, he’s among the most superb. But really his writing is so intensely unconventional for its heavily essayistic and abstract tone (I mean, I believe he delves deeper into the essayistic style of fiction than even Proust or Dostoevsky or Kundera… I find him king of essayistic fiction) but you know…excellent as he may be, he’s not widely read. I’ve only encountered one other person familiar with Musil: the great Phillip Lopate! What I’m getting at, and maybe I didn’t do it well yet…your qualifications as such in the most logical, rational, objective sense of the term, quite rarely apply!
How much do intelligence & qualifications count versus the ‘politics’ of the market/workplace/hiring?
Even Proust would be able to understand this. His original manuscript for Swann’s Way was rejected so he had the thing self published and then sold decently well (and the publisher who rejected him conceded he’d made a mistake. I’m still waiting on the writing professors who dismissed my writing to admit their mistake, especially the two who tried emphatically tried to dissuade me from applying to an MFA program. Not only did they dissuade, but one said they could not detect my passion and said they did not know what I could possible have to offer and so rescinded their wish to write me a recommendation….
“But I mean no harm nor put fault On anyone that lives in a vault”
-Bob Dylan; It’s Alright Ma
“In the streets of New York City Every man can feel the cold. And I don't want no pity, But I want my story told.”
–Barry, Robin, Maurice Gibb)
Not that the far to often mootness of “qualifications” is exclusive to the art world—again look to politics, Trump may actually be one of the least qualified alive in the country today! Biden…? My vote was to be for Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Mass. I thought she had a more intelligent and forceful but yet overall presentable take on the state of our union and to where it ought to go.
Who cares which candidate is most intellectually qualified, a sense at least of who will most likely get the most votes?
To what extent is this precisely relevant to art? From the point of view of those who SELL art…the publishing companies, art dealers, music production labels, motion picture/tv production companities… what do you think most of them put first, sales be damned? Sales, or merit?
(This is no way to imply that any particular person in any particular position other than those I named is thus in their position for reasons more likely political than that they are qualified but…when it comes to money…I mean… who are we fucking kidding, right?)
I do not go so far as to say art’s trajectory is “subjective” but I do think it is HIGHLY PERSONAL! In fact, I think that’s not even a secondary characteristic, I think the whole thrill of art is to feel embedded in the personal… it is the conversation we want to engage in but don’t have the proper time and place for or…or we just enjoy that sort of engagement with the greater depths of one’s soul.
But because art is so deeply personal both from the point of view of the artist and of the art consumer, by virtue of it’s being personal, even when it strives to project a universal and generalist holistic point of view, in this age of still lingering bits of postmodern ideology, many in the art world, creators and consumers alike, operate both in terms of personal taste (so called talent be damned!) AND…frankly… subjectivity… some of the subjectivity making ironic sense…I mean to say that part of the thrill of art is also that it does have a space for subjectivity that the artist attempts to work out objectively (this is precisely why I love so many writers from the modern movement). But because we are dealing with such deep concentration on this realm of inexplicable (at times) FEELINGS, the context in which the artist’s work and her consumer establish resonance and connection is like a crap shoot.
Of course the artist CAN begin trying to EXPLAIN his or her art and a question arises—to what extent am I explaining this in very exact and thus thorough terms and to what extent am I trying to explain this in some sort of at least slightly marketing friendly point of view, or… with the reality of “marketing” in mind?!?!
Anyway, I’m working now on addressing this complexity within myself, that is to say, how I both remain true to my aesthetics and art all the while present the best possible case for its worthiness to be rewarded in storms of heavy cash.
I am working on how to be both artist and business man.
I am trying to obliterate a deeply entrenched false assumption of the metaphysical binary dichotomy that the artist is just the artist and that business people have no souls and do not give a damn about art only so called art that they believe they can sell.
And so I am in an ample place to begin 1) visualizing what my success as an artist LOOKS like which I shall do via “auto-fiction visualizations” 2) begin delving deeper yet into my studies of marketing and specifically marketing my diary blog and thus studying the blogosphere in that “marketing” and “visibility” context AND thus studying specifically how to sell art, and not just art but literary, and not just “literary” but actually rather experimental and avant-garde if I do not say so myself
And so I quote Eminem when he raps:
You ’bout to witness hip hop [or in my case—diary blogging] in its
Most purest, most rawest form, flow almost flawless
Most hardest, most honest, known artist
… Set to blow college dorm room doors off the hinges (boom sound)
Oranges, peach, pears, plums, syringes
Yeah, here I come
I’m inches away from you, here, fear none
Hip hop [art, literature, the blogosphere, the literary blog, THE DIARY BLOG] is in a state of 911, so
Let’s get down to business
I don’t got no time to play around what is this?
Must be a circus in town, let’s shut the shit down
On these clowns, can I get a witness?
Or as Randy Bachman of Bachman-Turner Over Drive sings:
You get up every morning from your alarm clock’s warning
Take the 8:15 into the city
There’s a whistle up above and people pushin’, people shovin’
And the girls who try to look pretty
And if your train’s on time, you can get to work by nine
And start your slaving job to get your pay
If you ever get annoyed, look at me I’m self-employed
I love to work at nothing all day [Though I don’t like that last line: I love to work at nothing all day—one should love work and thus find the work one loves….]
… chances are you’ll go far
If you get in with the right bunch of fellows
People see you having fun just a-lying in the sun
Tell them that you like it this way
It’s the work that we avoid, and we’re all self-employed
We love to work at nothing all day
And we be taking care of business (every day)
Taking care of business (every way)
We be been taking care of business (it’s all mine)
Taking care of business and working overtime
“We’re Rich!”: A First Sketch of a Visualization
The single most treasured aspect of our newfound wealth and the lifestyle it permits us is that I no longer drown in guilt or shame. And what was the essence—or what were the essences of that guilt and shame?
First and foremost—and easily so!—that just like mortality, poverty still exists. (Moreover, wealth can corrode certain relationships just as poverty can. When I was poor I was so busy trying to eradicate those circumstances that I had very little time for friends and family. Now that Ashley and I are rich, some we thought friends or family we had felt close to transformed from pitying us to envy us…) Why should I get to enjoy hundreds of millions of dollars while others do not?
You see, it was hard for me to address the paradox of believing I “deserved” anything one way or the other, because I’m a soft determinist. As Bob Dylan sings in the song “Idiot Wind” :
“I can’t help it if I’m lucky.”
To enjoy ANYTHING in particular that another person does not get to enjoy had been beforehand so challenging. I contemplated all the various contexts of inequity. Some people are considered “hot” or “sexy” or “beautiful” or “handsome” or “cute” while others are sometimes referred to as “ugly” or “busted” or some other similar concept-word. Some women have breasts in a size they like while others don’t. Some men have massive penises while some don’t. Some people are funny. Some are not. Some people are athletic. Some people are not. Some people are “geniuses” while others may be intelligent but not quite genius and others still may in fact (so it would appear) struggle or fail to retain, comprehend, analyze, synthesize, add to the conversation, et cetera. In this milieu, some of these people suffer from psychological/psychiatric illness of the sort that if they had only been acknowledged and treated properly, might range anywhere in that measure of “intelligence” from average to genius. (Meanwhile, some people do not appear to suffer from anxiety or depression at all.) Very sadly, some of these people who struggle intellectually are what some refer to as suffering from “intellectually disabled.” I have worked for years very specifically with such students. (And by the way, some of these students really are not intellectually disabled, they’re merely told they are and they believe it, and they may not even suffer profoundly in any psychological way other than that they can’t escape their sense of themselves as “intellectually disabled.” I know a person who self-describes as “autistic”—a few actually—and even though I’m not a qualified psychologist, psychiatrist, or neurologist, in my opinion, having interacted with them on very personal and intellectual levels, neither, in the least ever struck me as autistic.) But moving on, some of these people labeled “intellectually disabled” do in fact suffer from neurological impairments that interfere sometimes just with their ability to see what they read, some suffer from a sort of disability that is episodic and can come and go at anytime—I’m thinking of certain epileptics for example (some cases of epilepsy do not lead to so much impairment as to render a person “intellectually disabled.” Consider, for example, the great Dostoevsky who is I believe without question one of the finest writers to have ever existed. But some are more-so debilitated). If you ask me what seems more unfair—poverty or cognitive/intellectual impairment, I will say every time I feel worse and more sympathy and empathy for the intellectually impaired. You see, I have “been there and done that” at least in a way, for I was often looked down upon as the slow guy who just couldn’t get good grades and thrive in school. Why couldn’t I just be like my little brother who was top of his classes, or my older brother who succeeded in Wall Street, or my older sister who thrived both as a grant-proposal writer and a photographer? Or compare me to my cousins now! Why couldn’t I be like the one who got a job in the National Institute of Health researching genetics after getting a Ph.D.? Why couldn’t I be like the one who got a job for Google and creates cellphone aps? Why couldn’t I be like the one who makes a lot of money selling theoretical marketing strategy and who never seems to appear in the slightest bit sad or interested in engaging me in conversation? Why could I not be like the one who could work for a…is it Ritz Carlton as an event planner? How was I, over the years, to understand putting one’s self in perspective in such a way as to not feel like clearly there had to be something wrong with me on a deeply cognitive level!?! And there was my father, the late DR. William J. O’Connor who had a private psychotherapy practice and thus thrived both as an academic/intellectual mind and made some good money. My former stepmother was press-secretary of the governor of New Jersey— Christine Todd Whitman. My mother was a nurse in an office associated with the great Robert Wood Johnson where my stepfather produced videos of surgeries for medical students. My former stepsister, I heard, at one point was perhaps working for the Port Authority. You see: I had no choice but to constantly grapple with the following question: what the fuck is wrong with this picture? How is it that a family can be so entrenched in success and yet I appeared to be THE ONLY ONE who was the family fuck up. The one who could not get a good job and make enough money not to be dependent on wife, mother, and inheritance and the tax payer? Logically speaking it makes no sense. How could everyone else in my family do so well for themselves while I could not even really pay my own bills… EVEN WHEN I GOT A 3.98 gpa and learned the hard way that thriving in school doesn’t really mean anything most of the time as your advancement in academia—so highly competitive—may have more to do with POLITICS than intelligence. That had been a whole other thing, by the way. First I was the fuck up who dropped out of college thinking what he needed to do was “think for himself” and make money independently of the professors and teachers and educational institutions. But then I discovered that it’s very hard for someone to make that work these days as often, it can at least feel or seem, nobody really cares who you are, they only care if you can put a check on the write block in their list and when you don’t, YOU LOSE! And so, hearing that long resounding and echoing mantra about the value of a college education (NOT SPIRITUALLY, MIND YOU) but for your financial future, you GIVE YOUR ENTIRE SOUL to your college work, thinking you are finally atoning for that mix of uncalled for badboy rebelliousness and your own stupidity…
“The peddler now speaks to the countess who’s pretending to care for him
Sayin’, “Name me someone that’s not a parasite and I’ll go out and say a prayer for him”
But like Louise always says
“Ya can’t look at much, can ya man?”
As she, herself, prepares for him
And Madonna, she still has not showed
We see this empty cage now corrode
Where her cape of the stage once had flowed
The fiddler, he now steps to the road
He writes ev’rything’s been returned which was owed
On the back of the fish truck that loads
While my conscience explodes”
 That’s me in one dream, the fiddler, i.e., the artist
I had a “smart mouth” and talked back as a kid. I’ve since learned to speak with the utmost diplomacy and constructiveness and politeness and courtesy and kindness; I failed to appreciate the value of education—I have since demonstrated that I can complete coursework and hold myself to an exceptionally high standard in the process; I was a libertarian who believed “forced compassion” via taxes, and other sorts of “prohibitions, regulations, rules, et cetera” encroached on freedom but then saw the flaw of that ideality from the seeds of its very premise; I was a subjectivist who believed we not only could create our circumstances but could change reality’s pure physical laws—I then turned pure objectivity and did not grand the human capacity for margins of error as necessary but I then did; I used to write at night and drink heavily so I could calm my nerves and treat my mind of a state of greater inhibition; Now I wake up earlier in the morning and do all my most important writing in the morning…
Somehow I think this speaks for itself