I was talking the other day in one of my posts about how hard it is to experience things in the same way as someone else. I remember one day I was in Book People, a large independent bookstore in Austin, and I was purchasing The Stranger for my girlfriend. The Stranger is a novel by the French writer Camus. In the books the main character kills a man. He is sentenced to death for this crime however, largely because he did not cry at his mother’s funeral in the beginning of the book.
The cashier became excited when he saw me with the book and told me that it was one of his favorites. I agreed and we talked for a few moments. I then remarked that the book was funny as hell, as I always viewed the book as a very dry and dark comedy about the human condition. The cashier’s smile disappeared and I could see he no longer agreed with me. He then replied that he thought, “I don’t think that book is supposed to be a comedy.” We finished the rest of our transaction in silence.
So even if you like something that someone else likes, you may like it for different reasons. So when you attempt to create something how do you take in all these different perceptions that will be at play, realizing that your own perception of your work, no matter how clearly you think you are defining it, may be lost on others? You don’t. The director David Lynch says quite simply that, “You need to focus on the donut and not on the hole.” You need to work on things to the best of your ability and make them as good as you can. You need to believe in what you are doing, because there is there is always the possibility that others will not get from it what you do. In fact most people will not get what you are getting out of it and many will not get it at all. Because of this you should be happy with what you created first and foremost.
Some forms of art, like playing in a band or working on a movie, require reaching a consensus. It’s best to stick to your guns, but realize what it is that you are trying to achieve. Fight for the things that are most important to you and be willing to let others things go. Only you can tell where that line is where something ceases to be a thing you believe in, and becomes something that you don’t recognize and that your heart isn’t in it anymore. The ego will try to trick you and screw up that thought process. Try to take yourself out of the situation, but again stay true to the work. Although your instincts will sometimes betray you, once you become comfortable in what you do, more times than not your instincts will help guide the work and where it should go.
It’s funny to see grown men in the studio arguing over a tambourine part. I imagine on the set of a movie it is also funny to see people argue over small details as well. There is a great deal of absurdity in the act of creating art. If you are in an art form that requires consensus, even when there is a clear leader, you need to realize that other people have to find dignity in what they do. They need to feel a sense of ownership in something if you are going to get them over the finish line.
So for the last time again, keep your eyes on the work. Fight like hell for the things you believe in, let your opinion be heard on other matters, and then let the rest go. All art and its reception is one half vision and one half a leap of faith.