I am a good-for-nothing. All I do is generate content. More of the same, every day. Or so that’s what I’m told. That I have to do more, to be more, if all of my work is going to mean anything. To amount to anything. If I’m ever going to get anyone to actually read any of my work. And it is work. It is not the product of “doing nothing,” that is to be certain. Yet the curse of the pure writer is forever being condemned–lambasted–by those around her as someone who is wallowing, lazing, generally daydreaming. “When are you going to get a plan?” “When are you going to ‘work’ for something greater? Strive for something beyond mere ‘writing for writing’s sake?'” “You’re not a real writer unless you’ve been recognized by a ‘legitimate’ source.” Who the fuck is even legitimate anymore? These aren’t the fucking days of Esquire in the 60s for Chrissake. What do people actually expect? The best and only thing a writer can really do is write.
That is not so, according to most. “What you do is self-indulgent.” I say: “Art is the very definition of that. If you can’t see that, maybe you don’t know what art is. Or maybe you’re making the wrong kind.” The last time art of this nature was actually paid for, tellingly, was in the time of Italian Renaissance patronage. Because even though money was involved, the taint that exists now when an artist works for money was not as palpable. There was a genuine emphasis on encouraging an artist’s craft throughout the process of a commission’s fulfillment. And while, sure, the patron might have ideas about what he or she would like to see as a final product, it was the artist’s ultimate choice about what the output would look like. Not only securing agency and freedom for themselves, but also the ability to live comfortably on the fruits of their “trade.”
In the present, of course, art has transmuted into something altogether blemished. Infected by the tenets of capitalism rather than buttressed by it as it was in medieval times. Ironically, the way it works now feels more medieval, with artists expected to work for generally nothing in the vain hope of the sweat equity one day paying off in some form or other. Of course, it won’t. But that’s the trap. The trap of people like me being told that my efforts mean nothing if I’m not working less on “output” and more on “selling.” If it ain’t to Lorenzo de’ Medici, then what’s the point? No one is going to bite and if they do, miraculously, the cost on a personal level is bound to be too great–for it means sacrificing the large bulk of one’s original intent behind the art. Editing something out here, shortening the overall length there. It’s all a reparation not worth being made–and for no original crime committed, other than being pure of heart in matters of creation.
The fiscal price put on one’s work will never be worth it, which is precisely why the best way to be an artist is to have been born rich already, therefore possessing total autonomy (à la Lizzy Grant). But for most of the rest of us, the starving artist gambit isn’t an act (the way it is for so many loft-dwellers still lending a false mythology to the “artist’s dream fulfilled” in New York). It is simply what we must do. Who we are. Sure, there’s more than an occasional fool who still aims for the “legitimacy” I am so often accused of not trying hard enough for. But why? To what end? To have a book available on Amazon? To get your work adapted to the screen so that it can be bastardized further still by being made palatable to those without the stamina to read? How is that supposed to be “creatively satisfying”? Because you can finally support yourself on your art alone? Evidently so.Even though this was something achievable for Michelangelo without compromising thanks to Pope Julius II. Not that any of us are allowed to compare ourselves to such a level of genius–merely because none of us have ever been allowed the same luxury of time to work on the efficacy of our craft the way such men of his era were. Shit, even Joyce was able to relish in the cliches of being a drunken writer thanks to his patronage from Harriet Shaw Weaver, bless her deranged heart (for she gave to Joyce and his family what would amount to a million pounds by the estimation of “2019 money”).
But me, what do I do? Generate content. A clinical description that infers nothing of what I do has artistic merit because it is borne of a daily habit, a need to be fulfilled as ingrained within me as brushing my teeth or washing my face. It is not pithy or profound, relevant or rewarding. Simply something I do because, what, I can’t sell. And that is the inherent role of the “artist” of the twenty-first century. One even more important, more preponderant than the art itself. Than the “generation of content.” Laughable, the term. As though content can just come out of someone (that’s not a robot) without any sense of emotion behind it. Like a receipt being spit out of a machine.
Well, not so. I don’t generate content. I write what I have to in order to endure. Art is not commerce for me but a means of sheer survival. And I’m so fucking sick of people trying to tell me I need to “turn it into something” more than that. I am not a fucking alchemist. I am just a writer. And I can no more make that profitable than a prostitute with no vagina. It is not something to be made money out of. Not in this epoch, at least not authentically. It is something, simply, that must be done. A means to no end. That, in short, is art.