The world is getting more confusing. Eric Shapiro reminds us why we need you.
Dear Artist as a Young Man,
I know you’re busy with all different projects, but I need your attention for just a minute. In fact, I need a lot more than that.
In general, I need you to wake the fuck up. I need your anger. Your passion. Nerves. Yearning. Lust. Heart. And balls. I know you got ’em, though I’m unsure whether you’re willing to share ’em.
See, things have changed on this planet since we were born. I’m older than you are. I’ve got middle-age peeking from around the corner, but the same grand swerves apply to us both:
There’s less money in this game than there used to be. Which is not to say it was ever easy. But whether you’re a singer, a writer, a director, a poet, or a painter, the cracks in the global economy are plenty big enough to allow for your passage.
You gotta understand that we’re coming off the end of a generation-long pig-out courtesy of Wall Street. Yeah-yeah-yeah — they’re still pigging out — but their pigging now involves a good deal more hogging, which is to say they’re not sharing like they used to: Main Street’s out.
Moreover, you gotta understand that the pool’s far larger than you’re led to believe. Chances are, if you’re in this game, you were persuaded of your talent in a small pool, such as your family or hometown clique of friends. Then maybe you went on to secondary education and got your mind blown by how many others there were just like you: same obsessions, same callings, same self-assurance (sometimes irrespective of observable skill).
And if you made your way to an industry town, then yeah: you’ve borne witness to the steepness of the climb.
But I gotta tell ya: As steep as it seems, it’s even steeper than that. The media doesn’t help you—doesn’t want you—to bridge the gap between your odds and your dreams. They dangle celebrities before your eyes, people whose roots were as modest as yours, and whisper to you that you, too, may end up like them.
And of course you may.
Though in many ways that dangle’s just designed to keep you docile.
Sedating illusions serve as substitutes for troubling truths.
And it’s troubling truths that I’d like to at last discuss…
I beg you to understand that in a scarcity culture, wherein jobs are hard to come by and wherein power’s just some far-off fantasy, mass art tends to grow more chipper and sentimental. The manufacturers of the product know we’re nervous out here, so they craft sweet messages to ease our fear.
You’ve no doubt sensed larger bubbles in your pop in recent years. You’ve observed spectacles of increasing size, each new one designed to more effectively crush your consciousness. You’ve heard songs of increasing simplicity, each new one designed to more effectively shrink your awareness. You’ve watched porn and strip clubs slip into the mainstream, to the extent where in all media the casual presence of raunch spurs a trickle of comfort.
And as a result, you may have been influenced to go with the flow. Head on pillow, you smile over clever and steroidal ideas. Face in mirror, you tear up, imagining the ecstatic sheer violence of approving applause.
It’s time to stop this. Grow up/wake up/stay with me here.
There’s so much great art on this planet—pop art, indie art, simple art, complex art, obscure art—that the maturing artist spends much time in the wilderness, deciding what he’s destined to create. Stimulation jolts us from all directions, imprinting upon our imaginations a delectable spectrum of possibilities. At noon, we’re classicists. By night, we’re punks. Three a.m., we’re post-modern reinventors.
And God bless your openness. Open even wider. Go out there and do it all–
Just please hear this:
Stop making me feel more lonely.
That’s all I ask.
See, the function of art, if its existence on this planet can be boiled down to just one function, is to alleviate human loneliness. All of us do this thing alone. Irregardless of the love in our hearts, we’re inhibited by the limits of our flesh. The artist—like the lover, the best friend, the hot girl who smiles on the subway train—says to you in words or sounds or pictures or all of the above, “I’m here with you.”
The fraudster, I regret to say, does not.
Which is where your heart and nerves and balls come in.
I need you, man. I’m not embarrassed to say I need you bad. The planet’s getting more confusing. The truth’s far stranger than we’ll ever know. And the crust of bullshit caked over that truth seems to thicken with each passing moment.
So pierce it, dude. Get in there deep. Show what’s underneath. I don’t care if it’s silly. Light. Goofy. Scattered. Uncomfortable. Disturbing. Excessive. Unending. Vitriolic. Paranoid. Dark. Severe. Flippant. Buoyant. Overwhelming. Obtuse.
‘Cause cash aside, the world needs your truth. Ego aside, the world needs your vulnerability. And odds aside, the world needs your light.
I appreciate the listen. And I hope to hear from you soon.
Eric Shapiro is a writer and filmmaker. He is the author of six critically acclaimed fiction books, among them the novella IT'S ONLY TEMPORARY (2005), which appeared on Nightmare Magazine's list of the Top 100 Horror Books, and numerous short stories published in anthologies alongside work by H.P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Chuck Palahniuk, and many others. His nonfiction articles have been published on THE DAILY DOT, RAVISHLY, LGBT TALK, and THE GOOD MEN PROJECT. His first feature film, RULE OF THREE (2010), won awards at the Fantasia International Film Festival and Shriekfest, and had its U.S. premiere at Fantastic Fest. His second feature film, LIVING THINGS (2014), was endorsed by PETA (People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals) and distributed by Cinema Libre Studio. In 2015, he won the 19th Annual Fade In Award for Thriller Screenplays. He is a founding partner of Ghostwriters Central, a writing and editing firm which has received positive notices from THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, CONSUMERS DIGEST, and the TV program INTELLIGENCE FOR YOUR LIFE. Eric has edited works published on THE HUFFINGTON POST and FORBES, as well as two Bram Stoker Award-nominated novels. He lives in Northern California with his wife, Rhoda, and their two sons.