I used to think this was all a good idea.
Wait. Let's back up. Let's go with the spirit of the season in America, 2017. I'll write this entry keeping that in mind. Buckle up.
Careerwise, things are going great. Couldn't be better.
There. That's the big one out of the way.
Remember, this is America 2017. Telling the truth is done and over, right? There's no point in it, no percentage and no return. Now, keep in mind, I'll use the royal and most possibly expansive kind of language here. For the vast majority of the corpus Americana, telling the truth and having any kind of moral compass is a defect.
I'll speak for myself and state that this is a difficult world for me to navigate, since I am unfortunately still in retention of my moral compass and core, and in truth probably would end up holding onto it in the face of very real danger to my person. Sorry, but that's how I was raised. I was told and taught that these things matter.
Which is a hell of a thing to see mocked on the regular. But there's just too much profit to be made for people to tell the truth now.
"The liars are coming," a friend wrote on a group Twitter account, and man was he ever right. Only he didn't know how right he was back in March when those words crossed my screen, and there's scarcely a day that I don't think about them. He's also a much better writer than me, perhaps than I'll ever be.
This, of course, doesn't matter in terms of him getting work. He's still scraping just like everyone else.
So, what do I mean when I said "I used to think this was all a good idea"? I suspect you already know, but let's play it out explicitly. This sort of demi-public and wholly-manufactured life for creative folks, this Howling Pit of opinion, counter-opinion, professional fiction and tenuous string of existential pronouncement. The whole reach-out-and-touch-your-favorite-creator wonder of the internet. The manufacture of identity through consumption of cultural product (an issue that has been with us for generations, but is now wholly metastasized through all levels from creation to production to consumption and criticism, canonization and excommunication).
It was a bad idea, folks. It's a harrowing or a tribulation, if you want me to use these loaded terms. Perhaps you'd feel better if they were called a testing or a crucible. And if I was to tap into my galaxy brain, I'd call them a koan. How is it that you are to build an audience in this world of the Howling Pit without becoming part of this shattering chorus yourself? It may be that you cannot.
But I've watched the damage get done to too many creators, and in particular myself, to wholly embrace this.
I won't go so far as to say that the Howling Pit of social media is the worst thing to happen to art in a generation, but I'm trying to think of a worse thing to come along. Perhaps I'm right and it's a simple crucible, years of exposure to which have done nothing more than burn away impurities and leave a perfect product behind.
Or maybe it's time to climb out and stop burning.
See, one thing I've found in this dumb new world is that writer/artist as product was always the truth. And we do nothing but make it worse by building up the legend in death (kind of unfair when the artists in question can't even fight back.) Ego is the fuel that drives success, but by the same token, ego is the thing that most poisons the work. Assumed knowledge of the creator's ego is the thing that most poisons consumption. It's tough.
But I can tell you how much my twitter feed, for instance, drives sales. Perhaps it's time to acknowledge that.
"Oh, Matt, you think about sales too much."
Yeah, well, sales is what sustains the process, for good or for ill. Sorry to disappoint. But there's only so much shouting into the wind that I can do before I lose my voice.
See? If I was smart, I'd be saying "sales are BLOWING UP" or "I am UNSTOPPABLE". Remember, folks like to back a winner, or at least someone who reinforces their views (something we all have clear access to on social media, right?) Remember, that whole "write what you feel you should and your audience will just find you" thing? Yeah, that's a lovely aspiration that has no basis in reality. Chase your dreams, kids.
Oh, the title for this week's entry? It's from "Breathalyzer" by EMA, which has been one of the best albums of the year. More on all those later, since I listened to more than three albums that came out this current year (for a change.)