There has been a lot of talk that 2016 has been a bad year with the passing of so many popular and talented people. Today’s death of Prince at the age of 57 reaffirms that. (Heck, I’m 54 this year so it’s not THAT old.) One consideration is that there will be no more from them. No more songs or books or movies from all these talented folks. The entirety of their output is complete.
The thing to remember is that they provided us with something lasting and memorable. They are gone but their works remain. Hearing a song from years ago puts you back to a moment in time that signifies an aspect of your own life. The many songs and stories and movies are signposts that mark our own passage.
But, if you are a writer or a musician or a budding film-maker, it is as important for you to set your own mark with your art. You may not win Grammys or Oscars or get on the New York Times Bestseller list. In the end, that is not what it is about. I consider the bravery and courage of David Bowie and Merle Haggard and Prince in doing what they wanted how they wanted. Even if “success” never came to them, they still “won” because they created a unique art that could only have been done by them.
The craft is the thing. Not as it is written in textbooks or presented by teachers. The pure essence of your own art comes through your experiences and your personal understanding. You need to get out and do the thing that compels you, regardless of finding an audience or marketing yourself. Unless, of course, that is all you are interested in.
Do something. Write that novel. Record that song. Make that film. Paint. Sculpt. Pour every ounce of yourself into an act of creation.
There is the famous quote by Kurt Vonnegut: The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.
What could be more glorious than that? You may not wind up being Bowie or Haggard or Prince. But you will find yourself as long as you just do something. They did.