artistic unknowns by Chris Matarazzo

A farewell: The joy of doing

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Well, this is it, friends:  the final edition of “Artistic Unknowns.”  It’s time to wrap it up, I think.  I’ve said the things I wanted to say.  Some readers, I’m sure, will receive this news with a small sigh of relief  — others might even miss participating in the  hashing-out of various problems of art, including the main focus of the column:  challenges and philosophical questions raised by the recurring, situational theme of these articles — living life as an “artistic unknown.”

Despite all that I have talked about here, both in my articles and in the comments with readers, for me, it all really boils down to one conclusion: in order to be happy as an artist, one has to enjoy “the doing” more than the “having done.” “The doing” is elemental; “the having done” is a nebulous collection of questions, in the end.

Once a work is finished and shared, it is subject to opinions. Opinions are either going to be helpful, discouraging or useless. The opinions of someone who has insight, talent and skill, can be helpful and encouraging. The opinions of someone who hovers, waiting to swoop in for the kill and to rend apart anyone else’s effort can be discouraging. The opinions of someone who either loves or hates you can be useless to your craft, though they can tend to make you quite emotional.

Perhaps the worst thing that can happen is to be generally ignored — especially by those who you thought would care about your work. That sucks more than anything, it seems to me.

It is true that we all need encouragement — no doubt. But when we consider the complications and the fickle rewards of sharing our work, a need arises: we must take solace in our process of creating. During the process, everything else falls away.  And, yeah, I’m going to be evaluative here: I think true artists take the most joy in their process of creating; to them, audience approval is secondary (notice that I didn’t say “unimportant”). Creation of art is an activity that rewards the artist as it happens — it is a reward in and of itself; accolades satisfy the ego in the same way that winning a one-on-one game of basketball can — they are not essentially artistic rewards.

When I’m composing, recording or playing an instrument, either in front of an audience or in an empty room (What is it for you? — dancing? — painting? — acting? — sculpting?), I don’t have the time or the inclination to think about whether I deserve to be famous or whether this critic or that liked my CD or whether the world really appreciates my true genius. All I can do is create.

In creating, I am recharging my heart.  In creating, I am adding my voice to the chatter of the world and I am “getting things off my chest.” In creating, my logical mind and my emotions exist in harmony — I might even be so corny as to say that, when creating, I feel one with Tao. In creating, I fulfill a purpose that seems essential in my soul. I feel I have to create, but this is a joyful burden to carry. I do not feel wholly driven by the need to gain approval for what I create;I feel driven by the essential need to create, itself.

(No, I’m not kidding. If that all sounds ridiculous to you, maybe you have never visited the places I have. That’s okay. All that means is that you and I are different — not that one of us is better than the other. I’m sure there are infinite things I’ll never understand about you either.)

I do admit: audience reaction is important. Still, I could live without it. Creating, I could not do without. This is why I will never be disappointed out of my art.

I once read a bit of advice for writers. The author (I can’t recall who it was) advised writers to ask themselves a question: “If you never get published, would you still write, forever?” His follow-up was that if one answers “yes,” then one is a true writer.

I concur.

So, thanks to those of you who stuck with this column for more than a year — to both those who agreed and who disagreed.  I know you all made me think. I hope I did the same for you.

In the meantime, I will be popping up on WFTC occasionally until the start of my new column, which is in the works. I have what I think is a pretty neat idea. It should be ready, soon . . .

Chris Matarazzo’s ARTISTIC UNKNOWNS will appear no more.

Chris Matarazzo is a writer, composer, musician and teacher of literature and writing on the college and high school levels. His music can be heard on his recent release, Hats and Rabbits, which is currently available. Chris is also the composer of the score to the off-beat independent film Surrender Dorothy and he performs in the Philadelphia area with the King Richard Band. He's also a relatively prolific novelist, even if no one seems to care yet. His blog, also called Hats and Rabbits, is nice, too, if you get a chance...
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2 Responses to “A farewell: The joy of doing”

  1. Chris … already missing this column … looking forward to the next. Thanks!

  2. Thanks for the kind words, Jeff. I really appreciate it. And thanks for your comments all along!

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