waryalbatross asked: Hi John, there's a lot of stuff I want to ask you, but I've just had a terrible week of loss and rejection in my "budding art career" and it really sucks and it seems like something you would have a piece of wisdom for. How do you cope with putting your ego and life's work on the line over and over?
I tried to answer this a bunch of times but I don’t really know! You hold onto Berryman’s line — “It is idle to reply to critics” — and understand that the actual work isn’t the thing you make, but the process that makes it, whose inherent value and dignity is well beyond any debate, because it is an expression of your self and therefore nobody can really judge it.
this is an unsatisfying answer, I know, artists have struggled with varying degrees of success over how to deal with these problems forever. the simple terrible platitudes of kindergarten are actually applicable here — the ones that tell you your work is good no matter what anyone thinks of it — but they seldom help much in the short term. in the long term, they do. people didn’t get very excited about Get Lonely when it was new. we were bummed! we felt it was our best work. we thought we’d gone somewhere special, unique in our work, its own place. over time, the people who relate to our impulse on that record have found it and connected with it, and the people who didn’t care for it have stopped thinking about it, because not many people spend a lot of time dwelling on work they didn’t care for.
but as I say this is a question people struggle with, I don’t think there’s a “here’s what you do” answer (and I reject, with thanks, any allegations that I am wise). you keep your focus on the work, I figure. when your focus wanders, you bring it back.