Sep 12, 2009

Time in the Woods - Day 7

I'm past the halfway point and past a crisis of confidence yesterday. More than a crisis of confidence, it was an overwhelming feeling of

An independent artist's life is devoid of much external validation. (I mean "artist" in the broadest sense to include writers, actors and anyone in a creative field.) No boss saying "nice job", no regular paycheck, no tips, no quota to meet, there's not even anything that lights up or beeps to tell you whether it's working or not. If an artist's career were represented by a toaster you'd return it immediately. An artist's daily validation has to come from within.

The lack of distractions here has the effect of magnifying whatever is going on in my head. Yesterday it was my need for validation -- internal, external, subdermal, whatever. I've invested a lot of time and money to be here and am shooting film that won't be processed till I get back to Gotham. I have only an experienced guess as to whether my images will in any way represent the poetic calmness of how time passes here. And even if they do, will they be fresh and compelling and have that little extra "shiny bumpy" that stretches your mind beyond the expected and crosses over into the realm of art?

All artists face such insecurities about their work, I'm just more susceptible right now. I spent last summer in the jungles of Viet Nam having an adventure for sure, but career-wise it was the equivalent of pursuing a wild aquatic fowl. I've been working on my skin portraits for almost two years now and although they got me into the Anderson Residency, I'm happy with only four of them. I've spent the last three months scanning all 365 rolls of film from my "39 minutes" project and have submitted excerpts from the resulting movie to over a dozen film festivals with no success. And here I am again, pursuing a project that's personally meaningful, conceptually sound but perhaps not unique enough, visually compelling enough or timely enough that I'll be able to find venues to get it seen. Gods damn it, where's that fracking .357 when you need it?

I used to express my discouragement du jour to my amazingly talented artist friend Meg Hitchcock. The advice she gave me was to just continue to do the work -- with integrity and for myself. Sound advice, but honestly, would I be out here alone for 10 days doing this for just myself? Hell no. I don't do rt for myself, I do it to share how I see the world with others. To give back in some tiny way. But when no one else sees it but me, it becomes like masturbating in a very expensive corner.

So how did I get past it -- yoga? shamanic journey? vodka? One thing that helped was realizing that I'm on this path for the next four days and can choose to agonize the whole time or enjoy it for the beautiful retreat that it is. Another was realizing that this isn't life or death, it's just practice in a field which I love and in which I continue to build proficiency. If the resulting visuals don't meet my expecations I'll obviously be disappointed, but it'll also be another step along a path I want to take. And finally, I decided to mix things up a bit to increase the odds of failing my way to success. Last night I added a night shoot to my routine in an attempt to move towards the unexpected. In my why-the-frack-not desparation to move past my anxiety-fueled nausea, I came up with an idea I probably wouldn't have otherwise.

I hate self-doubt. I hate my constant need for validation. I hope that having once again worked through it, the pain will have begotten something worthwhile. Sometime it does, sometimes it doesn't. The only thing I can say for sure is that it seems to be an indelible part of this journey.

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