Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I went into a rant. Not about the turkey being too dry, or the fact that it took me hours to locate and dispose of all the hair balls from Betty Queen Elizabeth, so my guests wouldn’t find black hair floating in their gravy. I went on a rant about my life as an artist.
My older brother, who lives in San Francisco and is a car designer by trade, was home for the holiday and I desperately needed to vent to someone who I knew would understand where I was coming from. I needed some reassurance that I wasn’t the only artist who gets impatient with not getting paid for your hours of hard work, putting your whole heart and soul on the line every day, just so people can tell you to go back and start over – the story isn’t powerful enough to be published yet.
What’s great about having a brother who is older, wiser and a male, is that he can encapsulate my reeling emotions into a few sentences and make me feel great. Not just good, but great.
With this particular rant I was on, he was totally in his element. I didn’t even need to get more than a few sentences out. Apparently, his many years of art school, car design training and on the job experience, added up to a whole lot of advice for me.
He said, “Being an artist means ripping your heart out of your chest, nailing it to the wall, and watch while people throw darts at it. Your heart and soul, your blood, your sweat, your tears, must be in every piece of art you do, and sometimes it will be great, and sometimes it will be shit. And art, unlike 1+1=2, is subjective. That’s your life. End of story.”
My lamenting turned quickly into laughing. It wasn’t that he said something I didn’t already know, but watching him pretend to rip his heart out of his chest and throw darts at it in the middle of the kitchen, made me realize that all of us as artists feel exactly the same way at some point. In fact, isn’t anyone looking for success going to feel this way? I realized it’s not just the life of the artist, but the life of someone who is striving for greatness, striving to better themselves, to challenge the masses, to get somewhere. It’s all about risk.
My daughter is a synchronized ice skater, and as I watch the skaters on her team who rang in age from 7 to 12 compete, I see them do the same thing. They go out there, give it everything they got. Sometimes they place high, sometimes they don’t. But it doesn’t matter. What matters is that they keep going. They keep striving. They keep willing to go out there, rip their hearts out of their chests and let the judges throw darts.
So big brother comes through again. Every day, I push ahead, asking myself if the writing I’m finished with for the day has my blood on it. Did I commit? Did I reveal? Did I take the risk? If not, it’s a rewrite. And I will rewrite my stories and I will let the darts be thrown, and I will keep going. End of story.