Not because they’re insensitive jerks (though sometimes they are) or slack-jawed troglodytes who wouldn’t know creativity if it bit them in the ass (though sometimes they’re that too). I think it’s mainly just that “art”, in the broadest sense of the word, is a very individual pursuit that very often attracts a very individual kind of audience. Like, I’m sure at least a handful of people told Picasso that that his whole Cubism phase was a guaranteed commercial flop and he’d be better off painting bowls of fruit or fence posts or something similarly pedestrian. In the end, it turned out Picasso didn’t listen to the critics and so-called experts and now he’s celebrated as a genius while both of the former have been lost to the sands of time. Clearly, there’s a lesson there.
I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m complaining because that’s not my intention. In fact, a long time ago I realized that whatever it is you want to do in your life (write, sing, tap dance, dissect frogs, or sky dive in the nude) you have to do it because it’s what you’re called to do, not because you’re expecting anyone to recognize you or celebrate you for it.
Don’t bail yet. I’m just about almost stumbling toward the point…..
It’s been maybe 18 months or so since I launched this website and accompanying blog and I’ve moved it forward in fits and starts and bits and bites, trying to get a new post up at least once a month and using the world of social media to coerce people into reading it. Most of this happens in the seconds of downtime I squeeze out between all the other things I’m supposed to be doing with my time like working, raising kids, stimulating the economy, trimming my toenails, and eating copious amounts of fruits and vegetables.
As you’d expect, I occasionally get some feedback on things I write but it’s not like there’s a landslide of people flocking to my blog or lining up to tell me how much they just LOVE what I do. And, of course, as mentioned above, that’s not something I expected and it’s not what drives me to want to write in the first place.
And yet, about 6 months ago I received a text message from an unknown number from my hometown Pittsburgh area code that said: “Why haven’t you posted anything on your blog lately? I’m waiting to read what you write next!”
Now, even though I didn’t recognize the number, given the Pittsburgh area code I knew it had to be either friend or family, so I smarmily wrote back: “This stuff ain’t free, you know. I gots to get paid!”
The reply came back: “How much?”
I typed “11 bucks”, hit “Send”, waited for a reply that never came, and didn’t think much about it after that.
When my folks came out to Denver this Christmas, my Mom handed me an envelope and said, “This is from your cousin Erin. She said you’d know what it was for.”
When I opened the envelope it contained one 5 dollar bill, five 1 dollar bills, and four quarters. There was also an index card in the envelope that said, “There’s more where this came from, so git crackin’ writer boy.”
Apparently, the random text messages of a few months earlier were from my cousin Erin, a voluminous reader, it should be noted. Whether she just decided to follow through with the 11 bucks because she thought (rightly) that it would be good for a laugh or whether she actually sat back and thought to herself “Is it really worth my hard earned 11 bucks to read what my cousin writes” and decided “yes”, I can’t say. Only Erin knows the answer to that question.
But feeling as I do that it’s bad karma to shrug off the gift of encouragement in whatever form it arrives, I’m going to use this moment to thank Erin for the 11 dollars and to do my best to make sure her “investment” in me isn’t wasted.
That sound you’re hearing is the sound of “writer boy gittin’ crackin’”….