The Artist’s Journey, #6
Continuing our serialization of The Artist’s Journey … to refresh our memory, the primary thesis of this book is that our evolution as writers and artists hits an inflection point on that day when we realize that our Searching Years are over, our questing dues have been paid (in other words, our “hero’s journey” has reached its completion), and we must now advance into a second journey, in which for the first time we with full awareness and seriousness embrace our calling as artists. At that point, we “turn pro” and start asking the questions all artists must ask of themselves on their creative journeys: “Who am I? What is my gift? What work was I put on the planet to do?”
21. ON THE ARTIST’S JOURNEY, ALL STRENGTHS ARE MENTAL
Honesty, particularly with oneself.
Compassion for oneself and others.
The ability to receive criticism objectively.
Curiosity, open-mindedness, receptivity to the new.
The ability to focus.
The ability to defer gratification.
The capacity to endure adversity, injustice, indifference.
22. ON THE ARTIST’S JOURNEY, ALL STRENGTHS ARE SELF-GENERATED
None of the capacities listed in the previous chapter is innate, but all may be acquired by effort and force of will.
23. THE ARTIST’S JOURNEY IS A JOURNEY OF THE IMAGINATION
I’m an American, and Americans have scant patience for anything that can’t be reduced to a number (a sports score, say, or a sales figure). We Yanks feel comfortable in a world that can be cut and measured, boxed and shipped, extracted from the earth and hauled to market.
The artist’s journey has nothing to do with that.
The artist on her journey will make everything up, including herself.
Her creations will be fictional, apparitional, chimerical. And yet the artist is neither a fabulist nor a charlatan. She is not lying. She is not deceiving.
Rather she sees, with the vision of imagination, what lies beneath the box scores and the market quotes.
She sees what is real and brings it forth so that others can see it.
24. THE ARTIST’S JOURNEY IS A JOURNEY OF DREAMS
I never wrote anything good until I stopped trying to write the truth. I never had any real fun either.
Truth is not the truth.
Fiction is the truth.
The artist’s medium is not reality, but dreams. I don’t mean “dreams” in the sense of made-up bullshit. I mean dreams as the X-ray of truth, truth seen through and seen for what it really is, truth boiled down to its essence.
The conventional truism is “Write what you know.” But something mysterious and wonderful happens when we write what we don’t know. The Muse enters the arena. Stuff comes out of us from a source we can neither name nor locate.
Where is it coming from? The “unconscious?” The “field of potentiality?”
I don’t know.
But I’ve had the same experience over and over. When I write something that really happened, people read it and say, “Sounds phony.”
When I pull something completely out of thin air, I hear, “Wow, that was so real!”
25. THE ARTIST’S JOURNEY PROGRESSES BY INCREMENTS
Album #1 (1964)
I’m a King Bee
Can I Get A Witness?
I Just Wanna Make Love To You
Album #2 (1964)
Under the Boardwalk
Confessing the Blues
It’s All Over Now
Album #5 (1965)
The Last Time
Play With Fire
The Under-Assistant West Coast Promotion Man
Album #11 (1968)
Sympathy For the Devil
Street Fighting Man
Salt of the Earth
Album #12 (1969)
Love in Vain
You Can’t Always Get What You Want
The subject stays the same, but the artists have peeled back the onion from the surface to deep, deep within the core.
Chekhov did it this way, as did Fitzgerald and Hemingway and Tolstoy and Turgenev, all the way back to Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides.
The artist mines the same vein over and over. He just digs deeper over time.