I’ve noticed some pretty interesting things lately about creativity in 2013. My vantage point might be skewed for obvious reasons, but it seems to me that ridiculous amounts of people are in bands, or trying to be semi-professional photographers. I’ve mostly come to this conclusion through facebook, yes. There’s sort of this massive market of people presenting themselves as legitimate artists of some kind, while also living their normal day job lives. This might implicate some interesting stuff about human beings.
The first thing it suggests is that people are drawn toward creativity and creative works. In fact, way more people than I would have expected. Engage in a few conversations with friends who don’t pursue a creative medium, and you’ll realize that even these people are probably attracted to the idea in some degree. Even my dad, known for his practicality and not for any kind of artistic ability, took an art class as a child and enjoyed it, but was discouraged by a critical teacher.
Another thing this phenomenon is teaching us is that, yes, everyone is a rock star now, and most of us suck. In friendlier terms, when things like music and photography become easier to create, the quality control level goes down as the level of quantity goes up. This creates a near-fatal, massive divide between the dilettantes and the lifers, and unsurprisingly, this divide is nearly invisible to the public eye, because most people do not understand art as a vocation.
So, two different things are happening because of this. First, as a globalized society, we’re learning that everyone wants to be an artist, and that everyone can be an artist of some degree. There is something of value in this. If art is only monopolized by the elite (coughclassicalcough), it robs the public of part of their human identity: creative beings. It sets the elite above the public, where they can be walked on. Artists tend to feel unappreciated 100% of the time, so when one of them is finally admitted into Elitetopia, chances are he’s harboring too much resentment to consider the option of not setting himself above his audience. Democratization of artistic attention has reminded us of that important piece of the human puzzle: we all possess some degree of creativity, and we all possess a desire to express the ziet inside of us. Sitting around the campfire singing Kumbaya together is not actually a corny joke; it’s a real human desire that 99% of us have suppressed into the unconscious because of social conditioning.
Here’s the second thing, though. This democratization of art causes the lifers to be lost in the noise. I know too many good musicians who have no fans, and too many mediocre ones with too many fans. And to be completely freaking honest, I feel like another one of those lifers lost in the noise. That’s really the reason I’m writing this, probably. Hopefully my self-pity can be redeemed for better purposes. Anyway, while most folks are on the honeymoon, basking in their newfound artistic self-expression, those of us who’ve been making art since age six because we have no other choice are ready for a divorce. I write songs because I have to, and when you do that long enough, you learn to recognize the others of your kind. And the percentage is not encouraging. It’s discouraging to see hobbyists receive the spotlight while hard workers go unnoticed because they’re not wearing a mini-tie and jeans in their facebook cover photo.
So what’s the answer? I don’t know. Probably less complaining and more hard work, which kind of undermines this entire blog post. On the other hand, maybe this stuff that we all sort of know but don’t talk about needs to be figured out (also, writing a complaint is hard work).
Or maybe us lifers need to do a better job of leading artistic expression. Maybe too many of us have soaked in all of the glory instead of giving it back to the image-bearers all around us who want to be us. Yup, I think that’s it. Everyone can participate in the creative expression of the human condition, and instead of writing bitter, complaining blog posts, those of us born (cursed?) to be artistic leaders can start to wade through the noise by having an others-oriented demeanor. Perhaps our audience should occupy the stage, while we kneel and play with awe and trembling hands.