The road to artistic perfection is strewn with the detritus of spent ambition and broken dreams. For most who adorn their gossamer artist’s wings, standing on life’s precipice waiting for that gust of wind that never comes, each day calls into question the same refrain, echoed both by those who mean well and those who don’t: “Who are you doing this for, anyway?”
Truth be told, none of us has the answer to that. We’d easier answer the question, “Who put all of this inside you, anyway?” I suppose the answer to both questions is the same mysterious “Who,” though knowing that does me little in understanding the answers. I don’t know Who it is, to be honest. Maybe you, if you’re interested.
You see, despite what you’ve been told, art is a struggle. We rise, often wishing we had more talent and less ambition, and scrape the dirty bits off of our psyches in the hope of finding a few nuggets of gold we can use somewhere. As often as not, it’s fool’s gold, but if we’re clever, we’ll use that too. So we paste a bit here, sing a taste there, write a little, dip and dab, and at the end, present our vain-glorious epic to a great, gulping silence. Then we brush off the dirt of disappointment, shower, and bed ourselves for another try tomorrow.
There’s always tomorrow, and if you’re an artist, there’s always another try. You’ll fall short, perhaps, but fall anyway. Who else is there but you? Who else cares enough to try?
Who knows, maybe you’ll get lucky and a few will notice and drop you a few thank-yous wrapped in a wrinkled two-dollar bill. Those are the moments we keep, are they not?
Hard work is its own reward, they say. More true is the fact that nothing good happens without it. After decades of struggle, I’ve found little reward in the work, only perhaps, in finishing. The simple life lesson — the one they don’t teach — is that work is not reward, but laziness is indeed its own punishment. We do the work because if we don’t, in that rare, lucky chance that success awaits, we will miss our opportunity if we don’t prepare in advance.
So we sit, scrugglin’ scrugglin’, singing mostly to ourselves, but hopeful, ever hopeful.
In the end, I suppose, the struggle is better than the damage we’d do ourselves trying to bottle it up. All it takes, I am told, is a single someone, the right someone, who can take that untapped talent and give it wings. Until then, there is hope, and the work, and more hope. And that, dear artists, has to be enough, for naught else is guaranteed.