The phase… The process… Whatever...What is it.
What makes a person… creative…?
I’m sitting here… And I’m thinking of people whom I’ve known that I’ve considered… creative… artists… motherfuckers that were capable of coming up with shit that was totally new, that drew from some inspiration that seemed to exist in some other dimension that no-one else could tap into…. And I ask myself, "What drove those sonsofbitches…What POWERED them?!? … what powered me when I was in that phase?" Cause I was in that phase once, and truthfully, I’m not in it anymore and I doubt I ever will be again.
It’s a place where you’re so far removed from… well, EVERYTHING. Concern as to whether what you’re doing is good, or will be liked, is gone, because you’re just so confident in what you’re doing, or at the very least what you’re creating (whether it be music or art, or writing, or web design, or skateboarding or whatthefuckever) is crawling to get its way out of you and you just can’t stop it. This sounds cliché, but it’s a voice that has to be heard. What drives that?
Is it drugs?
Is it women, or their rejection?
(For you chicks, is it men and their rejection? Well, straight chicks anyway…
If you’re gay, is it rejection from the appropriate gender?)
Are you seeking love?
I dunno. You know who’s a motherfucker I’ve always considered the epitome of this vibe? Yngwie Malmsteen. If you don’t know who he was, he was this eighties metal guitar player, who essentially came up with a style of guitar playing that was totally… new. I mean it was based on classical music so any many ways it wasn’t new but the particular niche he carved out for himself was. And lots of people, I mean LOTS of people hated the guy. They thought he was fake, or showy, or false in some way and in a lot of ways he was. But he clearly DIDN’T CARE. He just did his thing and said everyone who wasn’t into it could be damned.
And I went through that phase myself, you know? Throughout the late eighties through the middle nineties I think I was in a phase where I was simply creating without a concern for what people thought. I mean that’s not really true, I wanted people to like it, whether it was music or writing or whatever, I prayed people would like it and crown me some sort of genius, but it the back of my head was a little voice saying "this shit is going against everything… everything that’s ‘hip’ or ‘cool.'" But I still did it. I guess because I really had nothing to lose.
But those days are gone. Now I question myself at every step. (As an example, I questioned whether I should put all this weird spacing in this article, thought it might appear too "artisty" or whatever. And I have to accept that the vibe that drove me is gone. I have too much to lose. I’m too….. Comfortable.
And I think everyone goes through this. It’s a well worn cliché that for every artist… that the stuff they do early in their career is their best stuff. The stuff they did when they were a nobody, when they didn’t have to worry as to whether it would sell, because none of their stuff was selling, that was their best shit. When’s the last time Bob Dylan wrote a "classic" song? Decades ago. When’s the last time Metallica did something that sounded original? Years ago. It just… it just leaves you.
And I’m comfortable with that you know? I’d rather be… happy (which for the most part I am) than some tortured artist pounding out (or sounding out) "originality." But I also can recognize that phase, that process people go through to create really good stuff. And when I see it now, in people other than myself, I respect it all the more. I realize they are in a tremendously special moment and that they should milk it for all it’s worth… because it’s not going to last forever.
But that’s all bullshit to a degree. I don’t think folks have their one shot and then it’s gone. I need only look at Woody Allen to see that. When he started out with that "Take The Money And Run" bullshit, sure it was funny, but for the most part it was regurgitated slapstick bullshit. It wasn’t until "Play It Again Sam" and "Everything You Always Wanted TO Know About Sex…" and "Annie Hall" that he really hit it. Then he dried up for a while. But then, 10-12 years later he came back with a whole new phase, a mellow introspective phase with stuff like "Another Woman" and "Alice" and Crimes and Misdemeanors" (possible his best) and he was doing it again. Creating Really good shit! And a lot of people hated it! The critics hated it (critics have probably destroyed more good art than any other group, I totally despise them.) But he obviously had some voice deep down within him saying "Do this, You have to do this. You have to let me out!"
But what is it? What makes it happen?
I remember reading this old interview with David Crosby or one of those shaggy hippie motherfuckers and he was saying that after he gave up drugs he was concerned whether he could ever write a song again. He was concerned that’s where all the magic had come from. I remember thinking, "you’re full of shit, something so mundane, so ordinary, like drugs… that can’t be the catalyst for all the great things we’ve seen. That can’t be it."
Now, I don’t know what to say. I mean truth is, Crosby hasn’t written a decent tune in a while. The CSNY2K tour… that can’t be his final victory… that was just mummified hippies selling out to their audience of fruitballs.
I think youth… youth has got something. A certain energy that dies when you become too popular, too accepted, something that dies when you discover you’re only doing it for the pussy or the money or the fame. But with age, that’s where some people find their peak. They utilize the knowledge they’ve gained to create their greatest work.
It doesn’t really matter if you agree with me, whether you feel Allen and Crosby always sucked… in your pantheon of icons you can find similar examples. And lord knows there are plenty of people out there considered geniuses that I think are talentless hacks. (Pearl Jam, Jack Kerouac , Lou Reed (or for that matter anyone ever connected with the Velvet Underground.)) But we’re both left with the same dilemma. Some of our icons burn out early, others still have their greatest work ahead of them.
Goddamit, I wish I knew. Sometimes I think the whole concept of talent is something we make up, so we can excuse ourselves for not being popular. We say, "I never really had it in me to be successful and all." But some of the most successful people I’ve seen were complete morons and some of the least successful were the most talented. And hell, talent isn’t always recognized right off. (Van Gogh lived in obscurity etc)
I hate to end things with a question, it’s too easy. But I still have to ask…
And which way to Albuquerque?
(Note: This piece actually generated an interesting response, check it out here!)
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