Sure we’ve heard a thousand times, “There’s nothing new under the sun,” “There aren’t any new ideas, just new ways to see old ideas,” or “If it’s that original, you just didn’t do enough research.”
Writers are particularly subjected to this sort of thing and for writers there is a caveat, if it truly is original, you’ll never get it published. Why? I’m glad you asked, because the marketing department of the publishing house has no way to flack it!
Yeah, I know, commercialism, but that’s the sad part, if they can’t find a way to hook it into a market or define who will read it, they won’t bite. Imagine that, publishers want to make a buck and they will not spend money on something they think won’t generate a revenue stream.
Now visual artist have it a bit easier, they can get away with more for a coupla reasons. The first is if it is completely original it has a better chance of catching and holding the eye and that is a very good thing cause if they ain’t looking they ain’t buying. And second, change and innovation are the bread and butter of the visual art world. No one ever said Picasso was speaking for the Great American Public, and Alexander Calder was not what most people had in mind when they went looking for a piece to give to Aunt Minnie for her eighty-second birthday and they had to hurry cause she was due back from her hang gliding, base-jumping holiday in Tunisia any day now.
But because they were so strikingly different and new they caught and held the critic’s eye long enough for the public to catch up.
Okay so Picasso is still a bit out of the realm for most people, but I have to admit along with Loni Anderson’s bikini poster I had a print of Picasso’s Guernica in my dorm room. And I love his blue period, his blue period self-portrait and blue nude are among my all-time favorites for any kind of art. So that’s the disclaimer, any comments about Picasso can be dismissed as completely not so unbiased.
So when you set out to find your subject, that task we all face because if we stop there’s no telling if we’d ever start again, what with all of the minutia of life insisting we devote all of our attention and all of our free time and all of our not free time to it and then there are the kids and the dog and the thing on the couch which doesn’t even show signs of life anymore except for the death grip on the remote and the light bill and the nice folks at the church/ club/swinger’s mixed doubles swapping party, so if you ever stopped you’d never get up the energy to start again cause it is only the inertia of all that motion you’ve invested for the last forty years since you left the sheltered halls of ivy and ventured out into the world to make your fortune only you didn’t and then all sorts of things got in the way.
So when you find your subject is it new, completely original and the neatest thing since indoor plumbing or did you just make another one of the things which you have been doing for the last humpty-hump years since you walked away form college and decided to be a grown up?
Relax. If it isn’t, there’s no need to panic.
In fact you may just have hit on the right track without thinking about it so enjoy, give yourself a pat on the back and keep right on doing what you are doing.
What not keep striving for originality? Madness, sloth, and the sure sign of the crumbling of Western Civilization!
There are folks out there, people with money, the kind you like, who will buy art who don’t much care for originality. They like stuff which they can identify and understand right now, today, without the Cliff Notes.
Television is a ravenous creature; it eats up material at a pace which would make the most frenzied Tasmanian Devil gasp for breath. Every new season and now mid-season and summer season they have to roll out new programs and they all want to be the most inventive, original and dazzling programs we’ve ever seen. Like Survivor and Duck Dynasty and The Real Housewives of Upper Slobovia.
And do we line up and watch? Not likely, not if the ratings are even a little bit correct. According to the folks who keep score on who’s watching what, when and for why, the ratings champ is CBS.
Imagine that? They don’t have all of those new and original and dazzling shows, what they have is scripted programs with a storyline, plot and actors. Other networks have winning shows, CBS has a winning network.
And if you think that only works for broadcast television where they can't say words and show nekkid folks doing all manner of things which your parents assured you’d go blind if you did you’d be wrong again. USA tops the cable ratings with a schedule; of wait…hold your breath…don’t give it away…scripted programs with a storyline, plot and actors.
Seems there are a lot of folks who just want to settle in after a day’s work and spend some quality time with people they know and like who have lives a lot more troubled than their own and don’t have to listen to someone begging the car keys or wanting more money or playing music at a level which can be heard in outer space.
And yes, I have to admit I am guilty too. I’d rather spend an hour with Gibbs or Castle and know pretty much what I am going to get than to watch something more trendy or innovative and be so confused that I don’t know what I’ve seen when it is over.
And that artists pals of mine is the whole point, whatever you are doing, be it cutting edge, brilliant, creative genius or just decorative, it’s all good. That’s right there are folks out there who will want to see what you have done and they will buy what you have done and they won’t give a thought to how much blood and sweat you poured into coming up with it.
Which is why you should spent a lot more time working and a lot less time thinking about what your work will mean and what sort of legacy it will generate and what roll it will play in the cultural treasure for future generations.
Screw’em let them make up stuff about it after you are dead!