Yes, Virginia, You Can Totally Force Art
“You can’t force art.”
Google that phrase, you’ll get over 20,000 hits.
Many of them seem to agree with the notion that, indeed, you can’t force art.
Can’t do it. Can’t force art, creativity, innovation, invention.
To which I say a strongly-worded:
HORSESHIT IN A 7-11 64 OUNCE THIRST ABORTER SODA CUP.
I’ll posit that not only can you force art, but you in fact must force art.
Because art is not a magical power. Art is a result. It is a consequence of our actions, and the very nature of an action is that it is something we forced ourselves to do.
(One wonders if this is where the notion of a hack comes from. I quite like that verb, actually – to hack. Hacking through underbrush. Hacking apart a chair. Hacking up a hairball!)
Now, this phrase, this notion, this bewildering admonishment – “you can’t force art” — seems to share two possible meanings depending on the intent of the phrase-utterer.
The one utterance seems to mean, “Well, of course you make art, but when it feels like you’re really forcing it — you know, like, trying to cram a shoe into a pasta-maker or a goat into an elephant or a barrel cactus up your own ass — then you’re not likely to create art at all.”
The apparent definition of the second utterance is a far less reasonable: “ART JUST HAPPENS. We are all connected by a mystical muse-based frequency and sometimes the metal fillings in our teeth tune us into that radio station of raw inspiration and that’s how art happens — we are giant open orifices waiting for the voodoo ejaculation of the Muse’s artful seed.”
Let’s tackle each of these in turn.
The first notion makes sense. It sounds right. Every author and surely every artist hits a point during the act of creation where it feels like the torch is guttering. The campfire’s gone dark for the night. So, you think, “I could just quit for the day. Go have a Pepsi and some animal crackers and watch some TV, wash some dishes, masturbate to the 2014 Ikea catalog (nggh Gronkulla!), go to bed and recharge these here art batteries.” And this is generally sensible because obviously you have to quit the day’s work at some point. Working for 12 hours straight on a single thing may lead to art, but it’s just as likely it’ll lead to you inking a baffling manifesto on your skin in your own waste (“MY BODY IS THE TEXT BEHOLD MY SKINRIDER’S EPIPHANY”).
But there’s also a thing that happens where you might, using this reasonable-sounding excuse of not forcing it, quit your day a bit early. Before your minimum efforts are even complete. Example: just the other day I was crawling through my word count the way a starving man crawls through a muddy ditch to get to a Dorito he imagined at the end. It was just a boggy fucking slog. Most days for me are a fairly nice clip to 2000 words, and then the next 1000 take more time and require more teeth-gritting and sphincter-clenching, but this day just felt like I was trapped, like each sentence written was the drag of a rusty cheese grater across my wrist to free the hand pinned underneath a fallen soda machine.
I got to 1500 hundred words and I said, FUCK THIS NOISE, then I may have yelled YOLO and violently cleared everything off the top of my desk. And the thought that went through my head was, basically, don’t force it. The other days have been good. Ease off the stick, Earnhardt, Jr, tomorrow will be better. The story will be waiting.
But also this little pokey pointy stick kept jabbing my brain-kitten, thus making said kitten hiss and spit. So I stopped and said, okay, I always always always get my 2000 words — it’s a point of fucking pride here so I’ll squeeze the blood from this brick and see if I can’t wring out another fuck-smeared shit-box full of a likely-worthless 500 words. Words I figured I’d throw away.
And I did it. Miserably. Five hundred words is usually easy for me to write (this post is already over that). This felt like proctology with a pair of soup ladles.
I knew I’d probably scrap those words.
But I went back and read them. And you know what?
They don’t read like they were the result of exploratory rectal surgery.
They don’t read as if they were the peed-out kidney stones they felt like at the time.
They are, in fact, pretty damn solid.
As solid — if not moreso — than the words that seemed to fall out of me on “good” writing days.
I forced it. It hurt. And yet, those words still work.
Now, to the second idea, that art is a lightbulb in our heads connected to a switch that we do not control, well. You can probably guess my response. It probably involves the word “poop” and “noise” placed adjacent to one another and possibly yelled whilst flailing.
What happens in the dark of your mind — that sudden surge of inspiration! — is not actually art in the same way that a struck match is not actually a bonfire. You have to do something with it. You have to have agency. You must claim a course of action. You gotta throw the match, motherfucker. Creativity is worthless without the act of creation that follows it: otherwise all you’re doing is daydreaming into the void, giving a gift of inspiration to whatever mad elder gods roil and coil in the deepest darkest basket of far-flung ultradimensional space.
Art doesn’t just happen.
Art is made.
We are makers! We are doers!
So go make! Go do!
Embrace the desire to create. Give life and love and opportunity to the ephemeral shapes and shadows your imagination has gifted to your mind.
Art is surgery. It is extracting the phantoms of your imagination and packing them with meat and bone and blood so that they get up from the slab that is the screen of your word processor or your notebook — or your canvas or your stage or your camera lens.
You can’t force art?
Bullshit. Can too.
Sometimes, you gotta.
If you think that makes me a hack and not an artist, fuck it. I’m a hack.
But I’m a hack who’s making art, and you’re just an artist who can’t hack it.
*is trampled by a startled elephant with a goat hanging out of its butt*
(More wallpapers below:)