The Struggle of the Artist – Health

I’ve said it before and I’ll keep repeating myself until my lungs don’t work any more: indie artists are nut-bags. Day after day they’ll smash their fingers against the keyboards, drag their paint brush over the canvas, feverishly making order out of chaos without any promise of a return on their investment.

And what has been invested? Time, yes, that most precious of resources, that goes without saying. And money, too – materials, supplies, websites, promotions, hardcopies. And sanity, now there’s a big one. What else? What else?

Health

Ah, health – The quiet victim. While time and money are quantifiable. One can budget. One can prioritise. Lack of either is evident. One’s health is less tangible. It’s not like one can purchase a big bag of health on eBay, is it? Is it?

I just went and checked. No, there are no super vitality packs on there.

Ah, if only life were like video games where there are power packs that boost your vitality and repair your damaged limbs in an instant. Where you can go running and leaping and bounding endlessly. That ain’t reality.

Sleep

The hours worked in a day job get the best part of the brain’s awake time. Creative juices are consumed, necessarily, to get stuff done. Come home and there’s still more work waiting for you. What time is left over needs to be divided up.

The division is fairly straightforward: One can either recuperate, or one can get creative. Recuperation, by which I mean sleeping, or watching TV, or playing a game, or reading a book, or listening to music, is very, very necessary to overall health in the same way that exercising requires recovery.

The problem is that recuperation lets the brain have a bit of a chill, whereas creativity requires the brain to be on the ball. Here we can the contention: The artist wants to get stuff done but they are exhausted. The deadline is rolling around and the galley has to be proofed, no ifs, no buts – sleep has to be discarded in favour of getting stuff done.

Creativity becomes a chore, the artist becomes resentful and, here’s the really nasty bit, any chance of sleep, recreation or recuperation is tainted with a big, double helping of guilt.

“I really should be getting onto that last chapter instead of watching Nadal win the tennis” or “No, I can’t play with you Joey, I’ve got to proof at least sixteen pages tonight”. Can’t sit still at the pub. Can’t watch a movie. Can’t just chill.

Not only that, lack of rest has a terrible effect on the body. From a personal standpoint, I get noticeable more colds and stomach bugs when I’m overworked. Concentration goes out the window. I get utterly irritable, have no patience and find I make more and more mistakes both at work, on the road, and at home.

Food and Exercise

When you’re in a hurry you make sacrifices in order to complete the prioritised task. If this means ordering in a pizza instead of cutting up some veggies and cooking up a decent bolognese, so be it. After all, that front cover won’t design itself! The justifications are plentiful. It’s not a matter of being lazy, and often it’s a factor of the aforementioned exhaustion, “I’m just too damn tired to cook!”

And there’s lunch, too. Spend five minutes making it, or hit the ‘bugger it’ button and buy it when you get to work? Or perhaps grab a can of baked beans and hope its’s enough to keep you going without snacking on junk? By the way, that main picture is a shot of an ESP – Elvis Snack Pack. Peanut Butter, chips, banana, bacon, beef, cheese, sauces every which way. Healthy? Not in the least.

What about breakfast? Breakfast, you know, that most important meal of the day? Pew! Off it goes: I’d rather get twenty minutes more shut-eye and go hungry.

Exercise is the opposite side of the coin. Food (not all of it good) went in, what’s come out? Since the artist is so exhausted, getting into the gym or going for a run is akin to asking a rock for a glass of water – there ain’t nothing left in the tank.

Here the problem is a little more subtle. The mind is exhausted but the body is not. The mind just wants to be turned off for a minute or sixty, please. Stop bugging me. No, I don’t care if you are jittery, legs, I know I’ve been snacking on Jaffas all afternoon but, really, can you just leave me the hell alone?

The body is out of balance with the mind. The mind is in contention with itself. The soul has given up on the whole mess and is quivering in the corner. And that silly artist stands there, puffy eyed, overweight and unhappy, and keeps doing it, day after day after day.

The Solution

Is there a solution? Yes, but it’s not pretty and it’s not easy. It comes down to three words: Responsibility, Discipline and Acceptance.

Stop with the groaning and listen. Only you, the artist, can fix the situation. It’s a product of your own desires, no one else, and therefore you are responsible. Are you responsible for your works? Yes. Do you believe that you have created them with the gifts that God gave you? Yes. Do you prioritise getting your stuff done above everything else? Yes.

Then, at the very least, understand that the problem (and it is a very real problem) comes from the decisions that you make.

Once you recognise the issue, that your own desires are causing you grief, you can work on a plan and sticking to it. Discipline is your best weapon.

  • Allocate three days a week to exercise.
  • Make a point of being with your family when you come home.
  • Have a food-token jar: Put, say, four tokens in the jar for the week. Each time you buy food rather than making it, take a token from the jar. Whenever you cook, replace that token. When you have no tokens left, you must make your own meal.
  • Put a TV in the garage so your brain can tune out while your body gets a chance to move.

These are just ideas. The point is to figure out where you’re going wrong and provide a way to encourage yourself, when you’re at your most vulnerable point of “couldn’t give a toss”, to stick to your plan.

Finally there’s the Acceptance. Accept that you simply cannot spend every hour working on your masterpiece. Nod quietly and think, “Yup, I’ve really got to put an effort into my body. This can wait another day.”

No more downing cups of coffee. No more burning that candle at both ends. No more neglecting yourself. You suffer, your work suffers, your family suffers.

Come on Jez, you nut-bag, put this keyboard down, stop writing this post and have a bloody rest already. Nadal is playing tonight.Mini Jeztyr Logo

Branding Yourself (Ouch, baby)

Last post I ended with the line “…Why not stick a little of you inside there?” ‘There’ being your work, ‘you’ being you.

It’s a vague line. It kind of smells arty-farty or new-age or cliched or something, doesn’t it? But I meant it. Putting yourself into your work is by far the best way to brand yourself. Not the easiest, not the fastest, but best for longevity.

But how?

Put yourself into it

Knowing that this applies to all facets of your work (not just art), I’ll use writing as an example. Let’s start with style.

If I try to write like Dean Koontz, and I’m sure I probably could if I studied his style and mannerisms and all of that, then my books would be merely ‘Koontz’ clones. I wrote them, yet I’m not in them. If, however, Dean Koontz is a major influencer of my work, but I’m not actually seeking out to emulate him, then I’m free to add my style to it. It might be considered ‘Koontzesque’, that is in the style of Koontz, but since there’s too much of me in there, it’s not a Koontz clone.

To give a different example, say I paint in the manner of Van Gogh. If I copy his works and contribute nothing new, then my paintings, although nice, don’t have me in there at all. If his style influences the way in which I paint, not dictates it, then I can do stuff ‘my way’. My painting may be considered ‘Van Goghish’ but they are distinctly my own – I’ve made them, not copied them.

I would argue that it’s practically impossible to come up with a new style of anything that cannot be linked to someone who has ‘done it before’. OK, that’s fine. Not an issue. You are still quite capable of producing original work.

Substance

While my style my be linked to someone else, what cannot be attributed is my experiences, my history, my life. We are shaped by our environment. All those events, big and small, those catastrophes and celebrations, explorations both physical and metaphysical and, importantly, your decisions, all of these have contributed to what you are.

That’s a fingerprint right there, isn’t it? That’s something unique to you and, while it might be similar to another person’s, it cannot be the same. Two men go off to war together, fight on the same line, see the same things, but their upbringing, their circumstances and their philosophical outlook on life – and just about everything else – will be different.

How does that help you? Simple. Stick it in your books. Build your characters off those characters you know and love – or hate. Use them as a template. Exaggerate their attributes. They’re your creations, built from your experiences, viewed from your perspective – they are extensions of you since they come from your world.

Likewise the places you’ve been. Used to live in a depressing suburb? Walked the streets of a shantytown? Entered the marbled floored foyer of a grand hotel? These are things you know because you’ve experienced them. You smell the bacon frying whenever you walk past the corner cafe every day, you hear the cars and trucks rumbling the overpass on your way to work. These are experiences unique to you.

Signatures

I read a few Morris Gleitzman and Andrew Jennings books when I was a kid. Generally narratives, they start off with the ‘near end’ of the story, then back track to the ‘how I got here’ and finish off with ‘And here’s the end’. Not every time, but often. Often enough that, after a while, I could pick the pattern.

Lately I’ve been reading some Henry Beam Piper. Through each of his books, he has common elements of science fiction: Burp guns, sonic stunners, Para-time police. While these things aren’t unique to him, they are his in as much as he uses them, to great effect, to drive his stories.

How about Asimov’s positronic brain or the Laws of Robotics? Other authors have used these, but they remain distinctly Asimov-esque.

Even the elements that make up a story can be a signature. Bedford-Jones with his swashbuckling, reluctant hero. Frederick Forsyth and his multi-plot spy thrillers. Defining a signature isn’t necessarily about a word or a phrase or a theme or a character or a situation or a plot-device… it’s about any or all those little things, and more.

How would Tim Burton portray a fairy tale? How about Spielberg? How about Linklater? How do you know? Not because they shout from the rooftops their style and ideals, they put all of that, themselves, into their work.

Who, Me?

Remember: It’s not about inventing a new ‘you’. You’re already there. All the pieces are in place. If you try and make yourself out to be something you’re not then your audience will be more than a little miffed.

It’s about looking in the mirror and figuring out just what you can enhance, what you can play on to make what you produce unique to you.

Next post I’ll be looking at using the internet – this magic thing that does stuff – to help your quest to be seen and heard, so stick around.

Mini Jeztyr Logo

The Struggle of the Artist – Marketing

You’ve written a book. Super! You’ve edited it, you’ve put it through the wringer a few times, ironed out the bumps, made a front cover, and it’s looking shmick. You head over to your favourite publisher – Smashwords, KDP, Lulu, or perhaps you’re going the route of Calibre and doing it all yourself – and your fingers are trembling, your heart is racing.

Here it is, the big moment. The point where you give the world your work. You triple check everything, chew the last of your nail from your punished fingers and push the submit button.

And wait.

The Anticlimax

It’s all published. Some publishers take a few hours or a day to get it online, others are instant. Great. But it’s up, it’s up. You can’t sleep that night and feverishly check back throughout the next day. One download.

One. Measly. Download.

The subsequent days aren’t much better. From the reports you get, there’s little or no interest at all. Why? Is your book not good enough? Did you need to do even more editing? Was the front cover lame?

Perhaps. Perhaps not. Arguably the latter. Why?

The Reality

How many books are out there, right now, in a library? Now, how many more are out there online? Now, how many books are being created every day?

The answers are, respectively, lots, even more and heaps. Your amazing book is a flash in a very bubbly pan. It’s almost luck that anyone got to download it. Sure, there are ‘New’ lists that people watch but, if they are asleep at the time you push your book out, there’s that opportunity gone. Even if you happen to hit the timing perfectly, that’s only a tiny portion of the people

If you have an agent, or get published through a large house, advertising and marketing is part of the (substantial) fee. They have people paid to reach customers and entice them to take a look-see at your book, and they’re good at what they do.

If you’re an independent then you are on your own. OK, so you can tell your family and friends, that’s good, it’s a start, but it cannot end there. Why? Because unless you’ve written for your family (or painted, or sung, come on now) then they aren’t the people who you want to see your work. Uncle Bob might be into your garage music, but sure as heck Aunty Mavis ain’t.

What you want is to thrust your goods into the ears and under the eyes of those who might actually dig what you’re dishing. OK, easy job, just go stick some fliers in some letterboxes or staple them to the telephone poles.

Nah.

Making noise

The fundamental problem is this: There’s you. There’s guy who would actually like to see what you’ve got. And between you are a thousands of other you’s in exactly the same boat, seeking to reach a hundred thousands of the other guys in the other boat. It is now your job, and it is a job, to get what you’ve done out there.

Over the course of a month or two, there will be people who trawl through the lists, bots that pick up on new releases in genres and tweet them to subscribers, reviewers who are looking for the next big thing. Relying on these things to get your book under people’s noses is folly. What you need to do is blow that horn, beat that drum and make some noise already!

The internet is your friend in this instance. It serves as a platform on which to serve your music and books and film, excellent, and it also serves as an enormous soapbox reaching, well, the entire world. Let me say that again: The internet soapbox has the potential to reach every country in the world. That’s a lot of people.

“But,” you say, “You said that there are a thousand people just like me doing the same thing, and many of those people have professionals to help them out!”

True, true, but let me put it this way: If you bury your head in the sand, you severely (dramatically, extremely, vastly, pick your own adverb) reduce your chances of been seen. If you stand up on the soap box, even though you might be rubbing shoulders with a bunch of your peers, at least you’re in the game.

Get active, go join a forum or three, give advice and chats, start a blog, post updates about what’s cracking in your world.

99% of people won’t give a coin about your antics. That leaves (Pauses to do the math) 1% who do. And its that 1% you want to reach. 99% of people don’t dig war novels. 1% do. 99% of people don’t like vampire romance. 1% do (Actually, that figure, unfortunately, may be higher). The point is, don’t give up because you can’t fathom the sheer numbers. Even if there’s one shmuck out there who gets you, awesome, you need to let him / her find you.

You have to be able to reach who you’re after in a manner that will encourage them to stop and take a look at you.

Word of mouth is good if your audience is of the type that likes to recommend things. Forums and social media work if you can pick the right niche, and get a rapport with the people who frequent them. Don’t stop with the internet, though. You know those fliers? Not a bad idea if your target demographic is at a uni campus. Not a great idea if they are farm hands.

The reality for any artist is that, in order to be seen, they need to raise their voice. It doesn’t have to be an earth shattering crescendo, or a big explosion, or a stunt. Rather, a consistent, well articulated, “I’m here” is a great place to start.

Over the next few posts, I’ll be sharing some of the marketing techniques and pitfalls I’ve come across.Mini Jeztyr Logo

Add that salt

In previous posts, I was banging on about how the audience can give feedback to the artist. In short, it’s a personal reflection from the reviewer and says more about their tastes and attitudes than the work itself.

This is a key concept to keep in mind for you, my fellow artist, when dealing with accepting criticism and feedback.

Objectivity

The problem with art is that there is a misconception that anything goes. If I call it art, then it must be art, and if I say, “That’s exactly how I wanted it” doesn’t mean that it’s perfect.

Whoa, whoa. Really? Yup, really. I cannot draw a circle and call it a square. I might say, “I’m challenging your concept of a square…”, that’s fine, I can call it whatever I like. I can call it Bob. I can call it, “The Impression of Time”.

What it actually is, is beyond debate. It’s still not a square by any definition. It’s a circle. And if my intention was to draw a square and I ended up with a circle, then what I did is not what I intended – it was a mistake.

If I write “Grandma waked to a shops,” and you pick me up on my spelling and grammar, it’s pretty evident that, by any rule book, the sentence is wrong. Of course, this sentence could be part of a character’s speech, and they are apt to mispronounce words or whatever, but that’s beside the point. The intent of the sentence is not what manifested – it was a mistake.

As a rule: Objective criticism is not personal so don’t take it that way.

As an artist, be thankful that the mistakes have been pointed out to you. If you’re drawing a realistic scene and someone complains about the perspective, listen to them rather than waving your hand and claiming artistic license. If it was your intention to display proper perspective, then another set of eyes to criticise your work is invaluable.

Perspective, like grammar and punctuation, or timing and chords (if we’re talking music) can be measured and determined as being correct or incorrect, true or false. Because of this, you can take the criticism and check it for yourself.

Remember: Objective criticism can be verified externally.

And I’ll take the time to reiterate my stance on ‘correctness’ because it bears repeating: Just because a painting doesn’t have perfect symmetry, or a singer dropped a note, or a writer put his comma in the wrong spot, doesn’t mean the artwork is instantly less enjoyable.

Subjective Criticism

The other problem with art is that there is a misconception that good art is good for everyone. After all, everyone subscribes to the works of Bosch, right? Everyone enjoys reading Dean Koontz, right? Everyone digs Daft Punk, right? Right?

Wrong.

The reason is simple. Different people like / dislike different things. The old adage says that “You can’t please everyone” and this is the truest statement of them all. I know people who don’t like Star Wars, or Harry Potter, or Celine Dion (it’s true!).

Big rule here: No work of art will appeal to everyone.

As such, you cannot expect that your efforts will be labelled as five stars by everyone or even anyone.

The other way of saying this is that you must expect that you will receive negative reviews. Full stop. You’re deluding yourself if you think otherwise. In fact, I’d argue that you should be worried if everything you’re not getting negative reviews.

Of course, if you’ve poured your heart and soul into a work, only to find that everyone who has bothered to tell you what they think says that it stinks, then it’s time to step back and appraise it from their point of view.

It may, genuinely, 100%, honest-to-goodness, hand-on-heart stink and you’re so committed to it, and have worked on it so hard, that you can’t, or won’t, see that it isn’t really fit for public consumption. If this is the case, and I truly don’t think it will be, but if it is then it still doesn’t mean that you stink, only that what you made stinks.

OK. Fine. Learn from this and move on. Take the criticism, push your chest out and start your next piece – or perhaps tidy up what you’ve got, fix the flaws and try again.

Don’t forget: Any genuine feedback is good feedback.

From what I’ve seen, though, reading through indie books and listening to indie music (Head to The Blitz, now! You can listen while you’re reading) and such, is that there is a natural filter, Fear, that acts to prevent the artist from dishing up tosh. While it can be debilitating, it means that anything the artist does finally squeeze out is going to be refined and sculpted to their liking.

I’m not talking random snaps and duck-faced pouts on Snapscat, I’m talking actual honed and published material. Hence my reasoning to claim that, more likely than not, what you’ve got isn’t tosh. More likely than not, the right person hasn’t seen it.

If a thousand people hate your song, and one person absolutely loves it, is he wrong? Not at all! He’s the only one out there who gets it. He’s the one who has something the others don’t have – a connection with the artist.

Importantly: If someone has taken the time to give feedback, take the time to accept it.

Wankers and Arseholes

There are arseholes in this world. There are people who will bag you, pay you out, drop one-star bombs, write incoherent gibberish on a feedback form, troll you in forums… you know, arseholes.

Then there are the wankers. The ones who talk to hear their own voice, take an opposing point of view simply to have an argument, use their almighty Google-fu to assert their point, correct every minor flaw with their mighty keyboards… you know, wankers.

Thankfully, there are fewer of them out there than there are genuine people. They’re easy to spot. They know how to get a reaction. Writing back, getting aggressive or defensive, stewing over it or cyber-stalking them isn’t going to do a lick of good. Hunting the White Whale what flipped your boat will only end in tears.

Always: Leave the arseholes and the wankers alone.

By listening to what people like and don’t like about what you do, you acknowledge your audience, close the loop and, at the same time, gain a valuable insight into how your work is being received.

If everyone is saying that it needs more salt, perhaps you can afford to sprinkle some more on before you push out your next dish?Mini Jeztyr Logo

Need Salt?

It must be great to be a chef, cooking up fresh ingredients, using all the skill and knowledge garnered over the years to produce a plate that, after a few minutes, is devoured by a hungry patron. What an amazing feedback loop! One would only need to look out over the pass and see the mass of satisfied faces to see that if was all worth it.

Feedback? Honestly!

Feedback is the lifeblood of the artist. They can live on beans and franks for weeks to save for their supplies, or work long into the wee hours of the morning after a bloody hard day, if only they know that, at the end of it all, someone, somewhere appreciated what they did.

After all, who does the artist work for? For whom do they paint? For whom do they write? For whom do they compose? You, silly! That’s who!

We don’t get to see you enjoying our work, unless we’re there behind you, looking over your shoulder, grinning creepily… No. No. We don’t do that. And if we did, surely you would not have the inclination to be as up-front and honest as you (and we) would like you to be.

Why honest? Why not just give 5 stars to the struggling artist and move on? Because it doesn’t help the artist to grow. It gives a false impression that the tripe they dished up was decent. It gives no indication of your true feelings so the next thing you’ll get will be more of the same.

On the flip side, if you drop a 1 star bomb and run off giggling, the artist is left wondering whether they have under-performed, if they even have talent, if they should bother pursuing their dreams.

No feedback is better than dishonest feedback. Honest feedback is best for everyone concerned.

I know that there will be people who argue against this, citing that the more feedback a work gets, good or bad, the better it is for marketing. Well, I’m not talking about marketing or sales or exposure, I’m talking about the artist, their work and their future.

Avoid 5 and 1 stars unless you’re willing to explain your reasoning. If you give something 5 stars, then you’d be in the mood to gush on about it, telling the world just why it’s so great. For one star (and I’ve never actually given a one star) you would have to be intellectually insulted by just how bad the artwork is, and would be more than happy to explain just why it was tosh.

Like it, Hate it, Indifferent about it?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: You don’t have to like it. You don’t even have to appreciate it. In fact, many times, you will not have an opinion. Art is a personal thing, both for the artist and for the audience, but not the audience as a whole, oh no, each audience member as an individual.

I’m going to take a punt and say that you, reading this, at not a Reviewer. Do you get paid for your review? Do you need to write for the masses? Do you need to use your years of expert knowledge in the industry to spot the difference between a deus ex machina and a plot voucher? Do people criticise your criticisms?

I didn’t think so.

And this is where I think a crucial rule of feedback is founded: Since feedback is an opinion and an opinion is personal, then it is a reflection on you, the audience member, not the artist.

It’s about what you like and don’t like, how you see the world. It’s about your response to the work in question.

Here, let me explain:

  • “Adam Sandler is not funny” is stated as a fact. Since funniness is subjective, it cannot be a fact. He is funny to some people hence this statement is false and not useful.
  • “Adam Sandler does not make me laugh” can be a fact. Moreso, it’s not saying that Adam Sandler cannot make anyone laugh, only that he does not make the reviewer laugh. Note that it does not explain why he does not make the reviewer laugh.
  • “I don’t appreciate Adam Sandler’s puerile antics, bum, fart and gonad jokes” is getting down to the pointy end. See how it’s not a matter of Adam Sandler being funny or not, it’s whether the reviewer finds him funny.

If you are a fan of puerile humour, then you would be very happy to ignore this review and overlook the negativity. Or perhaps you might find “I love fart jokes, but Adam Sandler takes it too far in his latest…” to be useful.

Not everything is negative, of course. Compare the following:

  • “Adam Sandler rocks!” is impersonal and a waste of feedback.
  • “Adam Sandler’s slapstick style gets me every time” is personal, but not altogether helpful.
  • “Adam Sandler reaches deep into his bag of gags and pulls out some fresh side-splitting slapstick shiners. Oh, and watch out for the three minute farting compilation!” is personal, factual and helpful.

In general: Write feedback from a personal point of view.

Enjoyment

He slipped a note halfway through the song. Did your head stop bopping?

She used the word ‘belittle’ too many times on a page. Did you stop flipping pages?

Sometimes we can get hung up on correctness. The artist needs to know about these mistakes and hiccoughs because they do distract and detract from the enjoyment of the work. They can pop you out of the little world that the artist has drawn you into.

The reviewer has a responsibility to get over these things and move on. It’s a fine line. Too many mistakes, too much sloppiness and viewer simply can’t get back into that little bubble and continue to enjoy the work. Fair enough, criticise away, but keep it factual:

“I like the intricate, multi-faceted plot, but Ronson might do well to get an editor to help out with proof-reading.”

Feelings help. If you can describe how it made you feel, and why, all the better. We’re human beings. We look to art to give us sensations, emotions, thought provoking situations.

“This painting makes me uncomfortable, fearful even. Even so, I can’t stop looking at the pained expression of Man in White.”

As a guideline: State what you enjoyed, as well as what you did not and why.

A big note about Enjoyment: One does not need to be made happy to enjoy an artwork. I read the book “Slave” and it made me thoroughly angry, blood running cold. Was it a bad book because of this? Not in the slightest!

Horror books do the same. We don’t read them to be comforted, we read them to be confronted. Think about murder / mysteries. We don’t read them because we enjoy killing, we read them because it speaks to our intellectual mind. One does not listen to the blues for giggles, nor pop for meditation. We’re human, we are bursting with emotions and we’re more than happy for a piece of creativity to release them.

In short: If an artwork evokes a response in you, then it has to be doing something right.

We’re human, after all

Artists are a crazy, mixed up bunch, at the same time arrogant and humble, coming from all walks of life. Some are seasoned. Some have thick skin. Some profess that they couldn’t give two hoots what the world thinks. Phooey!

You know what? Each and every one dreams of being able to look out over the restaurant pass and see a hoard of hungry people happily eating their work. Each one would love to be able to fling their tea-towel over their shoulder and sit down with you while you munch away and ask what you think, good or bad.

If you’ve read a book, listened to a song, seen a video or perused a painting, then you’ve had an other worldly experience where the artist has reached out across space and time, broken geographic and temporal boundaries to share with you their mind.

The least you can do is pass on your compliments to the chef.Mini Jeztyr Logo

The Struggle of the Artist – Time

Artists are a crazy bunch. We spend our time complaining that we are tired, that we need a break, yet when a break comes up, we spend it… working.

I don’t know if it’s a compulsion, or an attitude, or some kind of psychosis or what, but it’s common among every musician, writer, painter, actor or developer I know. Any quiet time is time to get creative.

The Desire

The brain kicks in, the hands get twitchy, the legs get itchy, and the burning desire to create becomes all-consuming. The Muse comes to torture one’s ears, sowing nonsensical, disjointed suggestions that spawn ideas that grow into concepts that fill every cavity of thought until there’s nothing but an overwhelming need to convert the concepts into reality.

The mouth mutters quietly. The pencil hits paper. Index fingers are pointed to nowhere in particular. Every ripple, ridge and scuff of paint on the ceiling is scrutinised. The toilet becomes as sacred as a library.

Then the thoughts manifest in the physical world, “Hey, you know what’d be really cool?”

Think of all the ideas that could be realised in a thousand lifetimes, then agonise as they are culled to leave only the most sensible, the most immediate, the most practical. Oh, for another lifetime…

The Conflict

Nothing burns like an itch that cannot be scratched. So many of us have to work at jobs, cook and clean for our families, attend social commitments and generally get interrupted by every man and his dog looking over our shoulder.

Like right now.

It’s a nightmare, sitting in a long-running meeting, thinking about all the possible projects that could be completed, all the ideas that could be explored, all the cool concepts that could be made into reality, if only I wasn’t stuck in this damn meeting!

Then, to top it all off, when finally there is a breathing space, one is just too damn tired to do anything – The Physical blots out the Metaphysical. The Muse has gone to bed. It’s a crying shame, but good luck trying to rev your creative engine at 11:30 at night after a long slog at work, cooking dinner, washing up and putting the kids to bed, taking care of that emergency support call, putting the kids back to bed again…

Ain’t gonna happen.

Yet it does happen. The desire is so strong that the artist actively, albeit grudgingly, pushes through the pain, past the fog of sleep-deprivation, out into the world of creativity, if only for a few minutes at a time, if only to make that next stroke of the brush, that next sentence, that next riff.

If you’ve ever tried to scratch your toe by rubbing it on the inside of your shoe, you’ll get an idea of what I’m on about: some satisfaction is better than none.

Go easy on your artist, yeah? Sure, they are crazy, but remember that they are doing it tough.Mini Jeztyr Logo