Home
 

 


THE FRIDAY SEMINARS — NO. 96

 

   . . . But it was so poorly written I really couldn’t even get through it. And when I confronted her she says, “But I want my work to be purely intuitive, pure inspiration.” Inspiration, intuition? I suppose that’s just a symptom of the myth, the myth of genius, the myth of the artist as prophet or seer possessed of miraculous, inspired vision bestowed from, shit . . . who knows where? — Heaven, hell, some kind of god?
   Unfortunately for all those would-be artists who believe that work is somehow un-necessary for the genius, the seer, what I know after all these years is that, first of all, genius is much rarer than popularly believed, and, most frustrating, there is no substitute for hard work, genius or not. I wish it were possible to just lay in bed and get stoned waiting for the genius to work its magic as Pink Floyd, or Beethoven, or Coltrane played in the background, but it isn’t — just ask Pink Floyd, or Beethoven, or Coltrane. Those guys worked their asses off. Coltrane practiced night and day until his lips bled from the reed. He was always working on his music.
   In my experience, in my opinion, there are four major and absolutely necessary components of success. And by necessary I mean that all four must be present for anything remarkable to happen. Remove any one of them from the equation and you have either complete failure or, and perhaps worse, utter mediocrity.
   But, as I said, there are four things that must be present before there’s any possibility of extraordinary achievement. The first component, and this is ironic because contrary to what’s been written, romanticized, or what most people believe, it’s actually the most ubiquitous, the most common of the four — and that’s talent. Hell, I see talent squandered every day, extraordinary levels of talent simply pissed away for lack of the other three components. And let’s be clear, talent is not the same thing as genius. Genius is rare, but that’s for another day.
   But the second component is desire, because without desire, even if you have the greatest talent imaginable to, let’s see, to be a hockey goalie, if you don’t like to ice skate, the talent is meaningless, useless, isn’t it? You must want to be what it is you can do. And I guess I mean, not just desire, but passion, because you might like to paint, or sculpt, or write, but if the desire isn’t overwhelmingly powerful, if it isn’t an absolutely undeniable passion, if you’d rather go smoke pot and listen to your Pink Floyd records, well, there you go. And I’m not knocking pot or Pink Floyd, but you get my point.
   Third is discipline, and you can see clearly how those three relate and how without any one of them the whole thing becomes a gesture in futility. If you have the talent but not the desire, if you have the talent and desire but not the discipline to actually do the work necessary to realize your potential, it’s all a waste. And this is where we started; discipline is tremendously important — you must to do the work! You know, Picasso was a fabulous draftsman. His more abstract work wasn’t the result of him not having mastered the rudiments of draftsmanship, it was the result of his desire to go beyond what he already knew, what had already been done. But, in order to go beyond, in the strict definition of the word, you must have already been to the place, the starting point you are attempting to transcend, to surpass. And I don’t believe that one should be constricted by the rules, but you have to know the rules first, in order to understand what else may be possible, as well as to understand what’s already been done so you’re not continually re-inventing the wheel or simply scribbling nonsense like a schoolchild.
   And number four, and this is the big one for me, the most rare, I mean, just in terms of the way I see the world, number four is opportunity. This is the one that’s plagued just about everyone who ever tried to do anything remarkable, continues to plague everyone except the most fortunate among us. I mean, you can have all the talent, all the desire, all the discipline possible, but if you were born into an impoverished home in which at thirteen you had to go to work to help support your brothers and sisters, it’s going to be difficult to find the time necessary to become a concert violinist, right? There just isn’t any, or enough anyway, time to do what you love. Seriously, if, instead of doing that thing that you might be genetically or environmentally most remarkably suited for, if you have to go out and work low wage jobs, hell, even high wage, prestigious jobs, maybe because of family expectation, I mean, suppose you’re an attorney, trained as an attorney, but really, desperately wish to be a poet, yet every working day of your life you’re sitting in an office reviewing contracts, well, it’s hard to imagine that your abilities as a poet would grow, would increase, would improve — when?, in your spare time? Would you contribute something extraordinary pursing poetry as a hobby? HA! Not possible. Hobbies — SHIT!
   Opportunity is the great divider. It’s no accident or coincidence that many of the great modernists, and by modernist I mean after the days of royal patronage, but many of them came from wealth, from opportunity. They didn’t have to go out and work as road pavers, or in a laundry, or clean toilets at Motel 6, they were able to actually do and be that thing they wanted to do and be.
   It’s unfortunate, but without wealth, very little is possible, at least not much more than essentially meaningless existence. You know, even Caesar Chavez had to eventually come up with the necessary cash to go out and reach the people he wanted to organize. He needed a certain level of wealth. Everything costs money. And I don’t care how you come by it: donations, stealing, inheritance, I don’t care — it’s still critically necessary. But I’m thinking of this in the sense of the arts; yet, it really applies to just about any human endeavor doesn’t it? . . . .

cc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
  Next