A few years ago, I went to see “The Avengers” with a girl I was seeing at the time. “I guess I liked it.” she said later on the phone, “I just couldn’t stop thinking about what a waste of money it all was. Like that’s MILLIONS of dollars that could have been spent to help a lot of people. It just seemed a little silly.”.
Last year, I was commissioned to design my first big public fountain sculpture “The Gathering Tree” for Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. All told, the budget ran to about $650,000. Again, as soon as that number came out, people began making blog posts and commenting online about what a waste of money that was, and how many other, more deserving projects could have used that money.
It’s a popular idea these days, that art and entertainment are frivolous somehow, and not worth the money.
In the business of being an artist, let’s say that creative success is just an odds game, like playing roulette, and you need to spin a red 9 to win. Let’s say that, because it’s true.
There are two differences:
1. The roulette wheel will change size depending how good you are. If you are terrible at your craft, the wheel will have thousands of numbers on it. You might still hit nine, but probably not. If you’re really good, it just has one through ten. If you’re amazing, it’s just red or black.
2. You don’t actually have to pay anything when you lose your bet, but you still collect when you win. This is amazing. Sure, you will have wasted the time it took to play, and people might look at you funny when you lose, but there is no actual loss- just an emotional one. You can choose to toughen up and play again.
Here’s what you do:
You just make something
You do it now.
It might be good. It might speak to people, make them think. It might touch them in ways they didn’t know they could be touched. It might take a little piece of you and show it to someone else, who will realize for the first time that they aren’t alone.
It might make people think and feel more than they wanted to feel. You might leave them awake at night, grinding their teeth, haunted, and cursing you. When the sound of their grinding teeth drifts back to you, through your open window on cool autumn nights and fills up your dreams with the beautiful, terrible realizations you released into the world, then you will know that you have made something great.