Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Artistic Temperament

So, periodically I'll go back to my blog I had on MySpace and I'll find entries that I want to republish here, mostly because my readership there was even more pitifully small than it is here. Here's one that I really liked at the time and I still like now:

So, one of the things in life that continues to fascinate/frustrate me is the concept of "The Artistic Temperament". I think that I can safely say that such a thing does, in fact, exist, but proving its existence is not the problem.

People who tend to fall into the "artist" category tend to be introverted in everyday life, and are averse to activities/work/ways to spend their time that don't nourish their soul or spirit. These things I ascribe to this group of people are things that I have either experienced myself, or seen or read enough examples of that I think I can safely do so. Many people have interpreted these tendencies to mean that artists are, in fact, LAZY, or unmotivated, or apathetic about the world/people around them. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I guess what I'm getting at is that, as I said above, I am both fascinated and frustrated by the situation I laid out in the previous paragraph. The fascination part comes in because it's almost this tragically beautiful thing--we live in a country that grants our right to individual freedom, and that includes the freedom to make whatever art we want, whatever art we feel driven to make. The paradox comes in when we consider that, in my opinion and that of many others, art is not valued very highly in our country by the population at large, and it is almost impossible to make a living making art. The devaluing of music by the internet and P2P software, etc. is just one recent example of this. The frustration I feel comes from the fact that I appreciate the freedom I have, and NO, I don't want everything handed to me on a silver platter. I do want someone to stand up (besides me) and say that my art is valuable, though, and it's really difficult for me, and many others I know, to be and stay committed to jobs that don't nourish us, don't fulfill us, and probably won't start to any time soon. I want to be able to provide for my family, and all of that, but I also want to keep making my art, on a real, committed level.

I just read an old interview from 1998 with Jeff Mangum, the primary songwriter behind the group Neutral Milk Hotel. (we are celebrating the 10th anniversary of IN THE AEROPLANE OVER THE SEA, their monumental second album, this month...If you've never heard it, go buy it RIGHT NOW). In it he talks about a telemarketing job where he spent most of his time either sitting at his desk with his phone disconnected, or hanging out in the bathroom pretending to be sick to his stomach. Is that a good, old-fashioned American work ethic? No. But I can't help feeling some sort of sympathy for the guy. I mean, it's hard to say if he had any idea that his music, especially the record he had just made at the time of the interview, would be so revered by so many people, or considered to be one of the great albums of the 90s. He probably didn't, though...I truly believe that his behavior at that job had nothing to do with laziness. It's just SO CONTRARY to our makeup as artists to do things like that some times...We'll work until we're dead on things that we're passionate about, though.

And those things could be a lot of positive, beautiful things, that would add so much to our culture and enrich the lives of many people.

I don't know how it's all supposed to work. I don't know to what degree we should have to suck it up and deny the way we were made in order to accomplish the basic things in life. I'm just trying to find the right balance between all those things in order to keep moving forward with my heart at peace.