I love beautiful, intricate, inspiring pieces of art. I love to look at every brush stroke on a canvas and imagine the work of the artist placing his or her brush in just the right color and in just the right spot, one smudge at a time to create. I love the longevity of pieces that sit in a soul and grow inspiration.
I love sweeping melodies, harmonies and surprises in music. I love when the lyrics of a song are so true to a soul that it feels like they came from some other dimension. I love when I can hit repeat and catch nuances, meanings, imagery from the decisions that were made writing, playing and mixing an album.
The end result – the painting, the perfect album – gets so much credit. We still listen to great albums, years later. We decorate our homes and fill our lives with end results. We even grasp to give the impression that we have already reached some point, are already fully sure, have already arrived in life.
I was talking with a friend of mine recently who is a filmmaker. We were discussing job opportunities and expectations and he mentioned that he really just wanted to lead the crew on a major project instead of being a back up or an assistant. I asked him the following question: If you were to imagine some of the greatest works of art you have ever seen – timeless classics from Monet, Manet, Renoir – you would probably come up with a handful of paintings you could identify. But, how many pieces of art, some half finished, some forever lost, do you think those artists did that we will never see or know?
His answer: A lot.
Those pieces that we never see are just as important as the ones we grow to know and appreciate. I actually think they are MORE important. Great artists paint when no one will see the canvas. Great musicians play when no one is listening.
The songs that are played in living rooms, but never recorded. The shows that don’t sell out. The recordings that don’t get exposure. The poem that lives forever in a closed and dusty journal. These are the important steps on our journey. These affect the end result. These are where we give our all and find our way and take risks and push our own boundaries. These are what make great creative pursuits truly great.
I am surrounded by creativity and creative people every day. It is a major source of inspiration and blessing for me. I get to see the journeys that will grow in to the names and work that is known and will change our society. But, I fear the mantra of “I haven’t made it, yet.” I fear that we have been lying to ourselves that “arriving” is the most important part of the effort and that everything is supposed to happen quickly and without much sacrifice. I fear that if we keep being bucked off our path so easily by the discouragement that grows from deferred dreams we will never truly create what we are meant to create.
I am currently in an American History class. 1865 – present. Name one major social development that happened during that time.
Right, The Civil Rights Movement.
We look back on the Civil Rights Movement and we see success. We see a movement that changed lives and changed laws, that drew attention to injustice and inequality. We see icons like Martin Luther King, Jr. and we acknowledge that they probably worked hard to make things happen. But how often do we talk about how hard that work was? (Still is?)
Imagine being so passionate that you committed to placing yourself in harms way. That you gave up traditional freedoms and fought with everything you had for what you wanted. Imagine that process taking 15 years. 20 years. What if we approached the creative process as we would approach any revolutionary movement for social change? With the dedication and the risk in understanding that the fight, the journey, was the only way to the end result and was totally worth it.
I believe that art and music can change the world. I believe that they can change the soul of an individual and that they can speak to an entire society. I believe they are that important whether they are created in a basement studio or sung at an open mic night. I am truly concerned that we have been told that all things that are meant to be should and will arrive easily. To be frank, that’s bull shit. Your art is worth the sweat and tears. Your expression is worth the fight with your fear. It is worth more than you have given it so far and there is freedom in realizing that you are allowed to want it – to work it – to give for it – to push it into the next level with every amount of strength you can muster today.
I do not believe that art and music are easy pursuits or that they should be.
Do not grow weary. At the end of the 15 years you have created the world you hoped to see in your lifetime.