Why should you or I be any different than #KatyPerry?
Have you ever wondered why the gods have designated “starving” the best adjective to describe artists, musicians and writers?
The word is such a part of the mystique associated with those professions that it has become some sort of back hand compliment, a tipping of the hat to persons willing to endure an outcast state to pursue their passions.
I thought about this Monday night when my youngest daughter and I went to see the Katy Perry movie. The movie follows Katy for a year as she tours the world. In it, we meet her parents, itinerant Pentecostal evangelists. We meet her grandmother, who when asked what she thought about Katy’s concert said, “It was loud.” We see an interview with her little brother, who said that he thought the lowest point in Katy’s career was when she called him, a sixteen- year old at the time, and asked him for money. That was about the same time she had her car impounded, twice.
We see people who tried to jump start Katy’s career for years with no luck. We learn about a record label that couldn’t decide how to package her uniqueness, so it held her captive under her contract so that she wouldn’t be a break out hit for another label. We hear about the hundreds of songs she wrote, see clips of her singing gospel at age fourteen while she plays a blue guitar, watch her play a gig on a bar stool in some dive in LA.
Of course, we only learn all this about Katy Perry because she isn’t starving now. And that is the way the artist/musician/writer thing goes. The person who gets the attention is the one who breaks out.
But what about those who don’t hit the big time? For every Katy Perry there are thousands of other talented singer-songwriters who will never graduate from “starving.”
It is the same with writers. Most of us won’t sell many books. It’s just a fact. It’s been that way for a long time, and still holds true in the new world of digital publishing.
So why would today’s group of writers expect the world to be any different than it has always been?
The simple truth is that the only reason a writer writes, day in and day out, is because he must. It’s not because he expects to break out, not because he believes he has an inside track on some hidden truth. It is often just the opposite. Sometimes writers write to try to find their way, to attempt to grasp something just beyond their reach.
But they have to write. If they quit, the words haunt them. If they give up, they risk their sanity. We don’t ask people why they breathe. So we shouldn’t wonder why writers write. It’s the same thing.
In many regards, 2012 is crunch time for a lot of writers who have come to the game in the last couple of years. But 2012 is no different than 2011, and 2013 will be no different. The technology will continue to evolve, but the essence of what it means to be a writer won’t. Writers will continue to pour their souls out on scraps of paper.
And “starving” will remain the best adjective.
I am going to write anyway. How about you?