I gave a quick talk on life as a working artist today to a couple of hundred teenagers who had been making anti-bullying videos inspired by my poem Because I’m Human. It was a delight. What I say about the multimedia/DIY revolution in literature didnt have to explained to them. They know all about the future of creativity. They are the future of creativity.
I told them how i became a poet – because of The Sex Pistols. And lots of other things too, but I will write about that another time.
I was there to tell them about why i have not given up, because that’s the thing you got to explain to young people who want to enter on the difficult & unpredictable journey of a life as an independent artist, as a punk.
So I explained how all questions for the working artist boil to one question. Though it can be put it in different ways, with different emphasis, in different humours:
How do I stay free?
Or perhaps, how do I stick at it?
Against all the forces, from day one of existence, arrayed against freedom? Against all the obstacles placed in one’s way by nature, & by others, & by your own all-too-human weaknesses?
The answer is in one word, one golden attribute of the long-distance runner: Stubborness.
A simple word…but of course the practice is difficult, though less difficult if you are from a long line of stubborn hot-hearted people as I am & as perhaps many of us rural irish are.
Stubborn enough for the parents who might go against you, thinking it for your own good you get the next job that comes up with cousin builder, or to send you to trinity to study European Law. Stubborn enough to walk out on them if you have to & to walk out on anyone ever who tries to prevent you pursuing your art.
Stubborn enough to put up with all the emotional ups & downs of being accepted & rejected, lauded & condemned, star-of-the-show & total flop, in-demand & out-of fashion, having a few bob & having no bob but the owed bob…endless tightrope-walking, endless insecurity….it’d drive anyone daft I’m telling you!
Stubborn enough to fend off & see-through all the maneuverers & petit impressarios that will be in for a piece of you if you are any good & start to look a little like silver in their eyes!
Stubborn enough to put with your own self, the demands of your narcissism, the inquietude of your basic frame of mind, the body you must haul around…
Stubborn, stubborn, stubborn, stubborn!
Pig-headed, wolf-hearted, tank-minded stubborness!
Stubborn as Vesuvious!
& boiling over with iron-fire of it!
Thats my alchemy anyway!
How do you stay free?
How do you stick at your thang, long term?