Aim. Paint. Write. Act. Do.
“Don’t help me or serve me, but let me see it once, because I need it. Don’t work for my happiness, my brothers—show me yours—show me that it is possible—show me your achievement—and the knowledge will give me courage for mine.”
Pretty much how I feel after reading an awesome book. An amazing movie. A clever play. A beautiful song. More than admiration, what I feel is gratitude. Thank you. Thank you for making it. For making this. Now, wait for me, I’ll be there soon.
That fragment is from Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead and there’s a chance you haven’t heard of her. That’s fine. Just finish reading this post and then make sure you fix that. You may find her philosophy a bit extreme, maybe even border-line genocidal, but let’s just stick with the inspirational highlights. She believed success was in doing what you love and making sure no one stopped you from doing it. That all the goals you set for yourself could be achieved through sheer willpower and hard work. She believed this principle applied to all the trades and fields in human society, but, let’s be honest, making it in the artistic circles is way harder.
Why? Jesus, where do I even start? The high rollers (A.K.A the people responsible for mass re-producing your work, A.K.A the publishers, galleries, film companies, dance groups, labels, etc.) control the industry and are, more often than less often, concerned with commercial success, rather than artistic merit. Not that I’m a big fan of “critically acclaimed” works. I think people will also overdo it and praise something because they can’t understand a word, and, therefore, it must be profound. See, that’s the point: I’m the judge of what I like. I decide what artistic merit is and so do you. But, initially, we’re not the ones that determine the success or the failure of a young writer’s career, of a young actor’s debut, of a young painter’s first showcase. Someone asks themselves these questions: will this sell? Will people think this is good? Will this be adored by millions? Dude: let the millions answer that. But they can’t, because there is either prestige, or money or some other factor involved. And so, one person decides in the name of a thousand and that thousand is deprived of a talent they might have actually liked. Then, let’s say that there’s a rich and famous super patron of the arts and he has exceptionally good taste, impervious to the influence of dollars, oil, titles, status and other earthly illnesses, and he’s willing to take a look at your work. There are probably a thousand others whose work is just as good as yours. I’m not trying to be mean or anything, that’s just a fact. So, as an aspiring artist, what do you do? Do you call the quits? Do you pack your things and call home and have your Dad enroll you in business school?
You say “F*ck it” and prove every single person who ever looked down on your work wrong.
It took me two years to finish my first novel. A year more between editing and publishing errands, but it’s done. It’s out there. Hell, it’s in my living room shelf and it is gorgeous. I ogle at it daily. It is the result of incessant thinking and day-dreaming and fictionalized memories. It is my talent, my work, for someone out there to see and say “Damn, this is a good book.” And it is that stranger that I cherish the most. Of course, having a million other strangers say something similar wouldn’t be so bad. I have heard the following statement in the past and I haven’t understood it. The creator of a popular book/band/show/product will be on a talk show and the interviewer will ask him “Did you ever think your book/band/show/product was going to be this big?” and he’ll blush and say “Well, no. I never imagined that I would go so far.” Screw that. I do think I’m going that far. I wrote my novel aiming at international best-seller, at the next teenage trend, at a literary phenomenon. I plan on becoming recognised, rich and famous. And so should you. Don’t ever think that you’ll never be able to win an Oscar. Don’t ever say that it’s impossible to make it in Broadway. Don’t let anyone ever tell you you’re never going to go out with Kaya Scodelario. For the love of your talent and what it makes you and what you have to say, please, don’t fantasise: plan. Aim. Paint. Write. Act. Do.
Believe in your work, when no one else will.