17 May, 2011

Dojo Summer Sessions: Only One Person You Can Please

Amanda Palmer recently entered a recording studio with Neil Gaiman, Ben Folds, and Damian Kulash to do eight songs in eight hours.  From scratch.  Using Twitter for song ideas.  Brilliant! Turbo Ocho just got pwnd.

Only some people apparently didn't think that way, and started kvetching before the session even started, and, well, everyone thinks they're a critic.  To which Amanda said:
catch 22: every artist and musician has to deal with this paradox of “demands” from different folks and the only answer has always been (in my humble opinion) to stick to your OWN personal schedule, make what YOU feel like making WHEN you feel like making it and let everyone sort out their own shit.

you’re NEVER, ever ever going to make everybody (or anybody) else truly happy. you can try. it’ll bite you in the ass.at the end of the day, you only really answer to yourself.
This is important, people.

If you only ever do what other people want and expect you to do, you're going to get pulled in a thousand different directions.  Because everybody wants something a little different from you.  No two people are going to agree on what you could do that would make them Perfectly Satisfied.  Hell, you talk to the same person on different days, you'll get different responses as to what they'd really like to see you do.

So, while it's important to keep the readers (or listeners or what have you) in mind while you're creating your various works of art, you can't let them dictate what you do.  You just can't.  You've got only one person you can truly please, and that's you.  You probably won't even please yourself, to be honest, but you'll have better luck following your own bliss rather than trying to follow somebody else's.

Do what feels right.  No matter how crazy the project sounds.  If you love it, if this is what you truly want to do, go for it.  Because you won't know until you've tried if it'll turn out to be one of those things that's utter genius and has (nearly) everyone fainting at how Awesome and Original you are.  At the very least, you'll entertain yourself.  You'll have tried something that fulfilled you.  If others end up not liking it, if it doesn't work, shrug and move on.

And remember that plenty of art didn't get appreciated until after the artist was gone.  Look at van Gogh, for crying out loud.  Rummage around any bin of classics, in any type of medium, and you're bound to find plenty of things that nobody liked when it first came out.  But the artist didn't listen to the critics.  The artist did what the artist felt compelled to do, and created Art, and if it takes a while to catch on, even if it never does, at least said artist was busy creating rather than pandering.

Please yourself.  Then hope that your tastes aren't so bizarre that nobody else is pleased, but if they are, oh, well.

And don't let people dictate to you what a writer is.  If you don't feel like writing every day, if that makes you miserable, don't do it.  You may never become a published author if you don't put the daily grind in, but maybe you will.  Write what you can, when you can, and the way you want it, and at least you'll have pleased the person you have to face in the mirror every day.

If you don't write with the goal of publication in mind, if you write only for yourself, you're still a writer.  That's what'll go in the literature books if some relation digs your musty old manuscripts out of your desk drawer and publishes them after you're gone and you end up selling commercially.  Writers write.  Nothing in the rules says you're only a writer if you're writing for publication.

Take risks.  Break rules.  Do things you want to do, and don't mind those who tell you it'll never work.  One never knows.  You don't know until you try.

Listen to Amanda Palmer.  She of the Vegimite song and the exquisite taste in husbands: she knows her shit.  She knows there's nothing crazy about doing crazy shit.

That's what artists do, damn it.  So shut out the chorus of complaints and do what interests you.


Suzanne said...

good advice dana -- to thine own self be true

Nicole said...

Great advice! If I listened to what other people suggested, I wouldn't be writing the coffee house book. And if I were, it certainly wouldn't be as crazy an experiment as it is!