Except that Americans are huge consumers of Art. Our spare time is dominated by movies, TV, music, books, magazines, comics, etc. Even food is Art, based on how popular the reality TV show Masterchef is.
But what about the artist? What about the person who created our favorite TV show or wrote our favorite book? It’s true that once the artist reaches success, they are glorified in American Culture. Every life decision they made before their success is to be examined and admired.
Take for example Steve Jobs. He’s an artist in his own right when it comes to design, and he is the most popular person people cite as a source of inspiration on living a radical life. Including me! I own books about his life. I watched the grad speech video.
But here’s the thing: when Steve Jobs was dropping out of college, getting fired from Apple, and demanding that the parts inside his computers be beautiful even if no one sees them, BEFORE the SUCCESS, everyone thought he was MAD out of his MIND. He was a loser. He had no respect.
If you’re an artist who hasn’t made it yet, you know what I’m talking about.
Maybe you left a “good” job to have time to paint. Maybe you moved in with your parents so you could be an actor. Maybe you work in the service industry because it’s the only way you can support yourself and still do your art. Maybe you still work full time and have to turn your friends down on the nights and weekend so you can work on that novel.
And if your living with MOM and serving coffee and writing that book, you will get funny looks. Pitty looks. People will worry for your future. They will ask what you’re going to do when none of this works out. They will ask you to please get serious about life before it’s too late. 401K?
BUT if you sell that book you wrote in your parent’s basement and make your way onto the various bestseller lists, that’s when the switch flips. That’s when everyone turns around and says, “You were so brilliant to quit that job. Sell your car. Work at McDonald’s. I wish I worked at McDonald’s, so I could have your success.”
What if we lived in a culture where the artist, big time or small, was respected as much as the CEO of whatever company is making a bizzilly MILLION dollars?
Because here is the truth: There would be no House of Cards. Hunger Games. iPhones. Lord of The Rings. Harry Potter. Unless some creative person out there had the guts to live a radical life for their art. To sacrifice what is “normal.” To live the life of cultural shame, so they could have the space to create the Stories, Devices, and Worlds that Americans love to stink into.
If you are a creative and you’re nervous about taking that first step toward your craft because it doesn’t look like American Success (high-paying job, house, spouse, kids, two-car garage), JUST DO IT. Don’t wait for the culture around you to tell you it’s OK. Because that will never happen.
If you have a story inside of you, don’t let the haters/doubters/fear mongers stop you from writing the next Harry Potter.
Be radical. Live different. Follow your dream.