Thursday, July 30, 2015

"Art isn't easy"


These are the words spoken by the character of George Seurat in Sondheim's "Sunday in the Park with George" at the beginning of the scene in which he pulls all the elements together for his famous painting.

I am not a painter, but this process of bringing disparate elements into order, into harmony? I understand that. It's what I struggle with every time I put words on the page. 

Aside from being a big fan of Sondheim's work in general, I am a huge fan of this show, in particular. I have seen in many times and have never failed to be moved to tears by it.

Art isn't easy.

Right now, in particular, I am thinking about the scene that opens Act II, where the modern George (great grandson of the artist) is trying to raise money and interest in his newest project. He sings:

Art isn't easy.
Even if you're smart.
You think it's all put together,
But then something falls apart
Art isn't easy.
Overnight you're a trend,
You're the right combination-
Then the trend's at an end,
You're suddenly last year's sensation.

It's so easy to feel like you are irrelevant. That no one shares your vision, or even cares. That you don't matter. Because we have learned to conflate what is worthwhile with what sells. And the more something sells, the more important is must be.

Our culture believes that and if we're not so incredibly careful, we can, too.

I have a vision for my writing. I believe in my characters and their stories and I want others to believe in them, too. 

As George sings:
A vision's just a vision
If it's only in your head.
If no one gets to see it,
It's as good as dead.
So we reach out of our comfort zones and talk about ourselves, our process, our stories, hoping to connect with patrons, readers, collectors, all the while feeling as if somehow each tweet, each post, each promotion cheapens the magic. The way explaining a joke renders is no longer funny. And all the while, story pulls at me.

I'd love to say that what other people think about my work doesn't matter. But I'd be lying. It matters because I'm sharing a part of myself. If no one reads it, no one can criticize, but then how will it live if no one sees it?

Keep Moving On

Sondheim gets it. Gets it on such a deep, aching level that over 30 years later, his work still speaks to me. At the end of the musical, Marie tells George:

Stop worrying if your vision is new.

Let others make that decision—they usually do.
You keep moving on.

Perhaps you need a little encouragement. I know I did, today. If nothing else, watch this second video. Listen with your full self. Marie knows the truth of it:
Anything you do, let it come from you.
Then it will be new.
Give us more to see…



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