It has been a productive couple of days, save for the writing and blogging. In an attempt to bolster foot traffic at the family business, I’ve joined a networking group to get the word out. I’ve not been officially sworn into the chapter, but I’ve already been asked if I’d like an officer’s position. That sounds promising.
In the literary world, I’ve recently started to gnaw on the concept of democratization in art culture. My introduction to the whole idea began by watching Andrew Keen’s interview in PressPausePlay. In it, he describes the proliferation of “art” we are experiencing as “global masturbation.” The digital age has brought about technology (e.g. Instagram, self-publication, Guitar Hero, etc.) that gives a false sense of artistic worth to any individual. It simplifies the craft and vetting process of art to where talent is lost in the hurly-burly of media. People in Keen’s position would tend to consider the fine arts an “elitist business.”
This is what’s known as art’s “meritocracy,” an idea in which individuals should be recognized for their achievements. I’m not going to wax philosophical about meritocracy, because it’s not bulletproof. Sometimes, there’s still an undervalued artist. Such was said about James Purdy, a once-Hooterville resident. On the other hand, how do we know the next Kubrick isn’t languishing somewhere in a sea of piano-playing cat videos? The answer is we don’t.
As I was digging through creative writing articles, I found an old letter to the editor of the New York Times dated 02.08.1981. In it, the writer explains the pitfalls of the NEA focusing on a racial group, rather than individuals. This is the pre-Internet America version of meritocracy. This isn’t a new problem, just magnified and adapted for more modern times.
So, as I sit here creating my part in the chaos, I am left to wonder about my “work.” What do I have to say about this concern? It seems to me while the fine arts are truly better off an “elitist business,” we all have to start out as amateurs. Natural talent is welcome, but several people can be trained to be an artist if they stay dedicated to the cause. Yes, there are some people who cannot be helped, period, but we as “amateur artists” should not be discouraged so easily. What are our alternatives, really? We either create and claw with the tide, or die against it. There is no happy medium.
This all reminds me of a quote from Anaïs Nin:
If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it.
My question to you is this: Are there any hallmarks of mediocrity? Would one know if they’re cut out as an artist after a certain period of time?