Issue #274 / February 2024

My muses have left me and I have lost all motivation to create as a film and music maker. Have you ever felt alien to yourself and your identity as an artist?

TAM, CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA

Every time I set foot in my studio, intentions blazing, I crumble with pathetic and flaccid paralysis. Do it, paint. No. Fuck. Why not? I can’t get my brain right in that space anymore, and I thought my whole life was going to be devoted to my art. I don’t know how to reconnect or reconcile making art in a world made of war and cruelty, how would painting a fucking picture ever help. How do you create in this environment?

DAN, SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA

Dear Tam and Dan,

What makes our particular job so exceptional that it requires inspiration or a muse to do it? We are artists and we labour in the service of others. It is not something we do only if and when we feel motivated – we create because it is our responsibility to do so. In this respect our occupation is no different than that of most people. Does an ordinary adult go to work only if they feel in the mood? Do doctors? Do labourers? Do teachers? Do taxi drivers? We are duty-bound to do our job, like everyone else, because the space we occupy depends upon our participation and breaks down if we dont. A committed artist cannot afford the luxury of revelation. Inspiration is the indolent indulgence of the dabbler. Muses, Tam, are for losers!

The idea that you cant paint because the world is made of war and cruelty’ has to be the lamest and most faint-hearted excuse not to work I have ever heard, Dan. How will painting a fucking picture help? — it will help because art is the noble and necessary rejoinder to the sins of the world. When the world rushes toward us with all its streaming wounds – wanting, needing – do we cover our eyes and shrink away, do we sit and wring our hands in despair, do we run and hide, or do we hasten toward it, like we hasten toward an injured child, with our arms outstretched?

If we are to call ourselves artists then we must avoid the myriad excuses that present themselves and do our job. Yes, the world is sick, and yes it can be cruel, but it would be a whole lot sicker and a whole lot crueler if it were not for painters and filmmakers and songwriters – the beauty-makers – wading through the blood and muck of things, whilst reaching skyward to draw down the very heavens themselves.

These are perilous and urgent times. This is not the hour to sit around moaning about the condition of the world — leave that to the posturing inhabitants of that most morbidly neurotic of spaces, social media — and nor is it the moment to fruitlessly wait for inspiration to find us. It’s time to get to work, to reach up and tear the divine idea from its heavenly cradle and proffer it to the world. Create, Tam! Create, Dan! Create like your life depends on it, because, of course, of course, it does!

Love, Nick

 

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