There’s nothing quite like the ephemeral feeling of being alive, ahead, of the universe and realizing you can either wait for the world to catch up to you, or you can continue pressing forward, alone, into the future, and hope that leaps in technology and thinking and education will circle around and meet you in understanding tomorrow, today.
If you live and work in the Arts you are oftentimes stuck in a generational limbo of being misunderstood and underappreciated. There is no harder conversation for the Artist to have in situ than with a surgeon discussing emotions.
The history of many things I’ve done has required a certain amount of hubris — in that I am forced to either know my vision is right, or give up and wait awhile and waste away.
In 1987, I made a film — Watershed — and in many ways that movie was the crowning achievement of everything I’d done so far in Lincoln, Nebraska. Watershed was fewer than 10 minutes long and some felt the movie was “Too short.”
I replied, “Nope, just perfect.” I had a vision and a means to that end. Now, 30 years later, many people today may watch Watershed and say, “Too, long.” I still say, “Nope, just perfect.”
Growing up in Nebraska, I was trained to do everything in the Arts because there were not a lot of options, or competition, to get things done. When I moved to New York City, my world changed because I had to “choose a niche” in which to compete and be appreciated. I could no longer cross-pollinate film and theatre and writing. I had to pick one; and I not only had to pick one niche, I had to also pick a subculture as well.
I quickly went from a master of all trades to just a Playwriting specialist technocrat — not allowed by the system to direct or produce or film what I’d written. Part of that mentality was territorial, a bit was the unionization of the Arts, and a lot of it of it was keeping you in a control box from which you were not allowed to expressively escape.
I understand the want to keep creatives bound by imploring them to follow the crowd, and not explore thought — because that creates a more comfortable, monetarily predictable and quantifiable end result for investors and training programs.
What I’ve taken away from the “niche-ification” of the Arts is that money and fame must not matter — the only thing that matters in the end is staying faithful to your vision of the world.
Success must not be defined by bank accounts, but rather by your formally trained internal aesthetic that knows if you are successful or not. Doing well is not valued in how much someone pays you, but in how much someone believes in you without being asked for their faith.
You earn fidelity merely by the deeds you produce for public inspection, and in those totems of living, you create your own internal guidelines for sustaining a right, eternal, public life.
It can be a tough task to follow a vision and wait for the end of the world to catch up with you.
Mesopotamia shifted. Continental plates slide. Mountain ranges rise and disappear. Everything changes, but in the scope of our instant lifetimes, nothing matters because nothing really perceptibly changes.
Visions do not.
They journey does not.
The Artist must always be looking over the horizon for the next time marker, and when you hit the pace, you must continue to keep circumnavigating the world — the circle in which you spin — because that is the only imaginary time that matters.
Being right means being ahead, and being misunderstood. Being ahead means being mocked and unfollowed by those who do not believe.
Vision is having unconquerable strength in not just being right — or of being permanently ahead — but in knowing where you’re going. How many people do you know in the world who are treading water, creating nothing, and just soft-shoe shuffling through their lives until the ultimate mouldy, end?
The Artist must not wait for the stitch of visionary approval. The vision cannot defer for the world to catch up. One day, if you are lucky, the circle will close while there’s still a little life left — or, as with Da Vinci or Andy Warhol or Matisse — the universe will only wind you long after you’re gone.