Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Deadliest Illness

High School the deadliest illness known to man, there are those who never recover from four years of High School. There are those who spend the rest of their lives trying to win approval from their high school pals, coach, teacher, parents or team.

“High school, that’s what you spend the rest of your life trying to overcome.” A telling quote from an unremarkable Sandra Bullock movie, Hope Floats. But it is true; a lot of us spend the rest of our lives trying to overcome the handicaps we picked up in high school.

Let me tell you something, high school is peculiar; it has its own set of rules and society. You have to be successful or beautiful or you just don’t count. And naturally you come to believe it is all your fault.

It isn’t, it isn’t anyone’s fault unless you count the odd social nature of North America which dictates everyone must conform enough to survive high school and get their badge of courage. What does a high school education do for you? Have you ever used anything you learned in high school?

When I was in high school I liked jazz. Of course everyone else liked Rock n Roll. I thought there was something wrong with me and I was sure that if I tried hard enough I could make all the other guys see how wrong they were and then they would get the message and like jazz too. Never happened.

There wasn’t anything wrong with me or them. Our tastes were different. Suppose that’s what makes the world such an interesting place? But the important part is the realization that there is nothing wrong with having an opinion, even an opinion contrary to that of the rest of the herd.

Most artists, visual, conceptual, literary, musical or performing have that little quirk, they like different stuff.

Few have the inner bulwark which guards them from that doubt learned in high school about how cruel it can be to be different.

If you don’t believe me take a look at what happens right here. Artists submit their work to a show and for whatever reason they get rejected. Doesn’t mean a thing about them or their art or about anything really, it means that the jury didn’t like that piece on that day.

So why is it the first reaction is to run and hide and never submit to that show again?

High school, being different is the worst thing you can do. It is worse than being orc or a troll or a used car salesman, yeech!

But one of the many reasons to become an artist is to be free to do what you like no matter if anyone else likes it or not. You get to march to a different drummer or hear the music no one else can hear or see the fairies flying on the moonbeams and no one can say you can’t.

One of my favorite writing coaches, (There he goes again, he’s off topic and running straight into another tangent), Lawrence Block tells his students, “Write what you like. Write what you’d like to read, the chance of getting published is so small you might as well enjoy what you are writing and if one day it sells then that’s just the cherry on top.” And boys and girls he is right, do what you like, you are much more likely to do it well and enjoy the doing than if you try to chase the next trend. By the time you catch a trend it is pass√© anyway.

I’ve seen actors reduced to shakes and tears when they didn’t get a part they wanted and writers go off on a miserable bender when their baby comes back from the publisher with a big ole red rejection stamp; I haven’t see artists self-destruct, but then the can hide in their studios. No, making money from art is a gift, the lucky make a living, the great make a reputation and the best join the Gods on Olympus.

But don’t make it the start and finish of your life. This ain’t high school; you have other important things in your life, don’t you?

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