“I just think to look across the room and automatically assume that somebody else is less aware than me, or that somehow their interior life is less rich, and complicated, and acutely perceived than mine, makes me not as good a writer. Because that means I’m going to be performing for a faceless audience, instead of trying to have a conversation with a person. […] It’s true that I want very much—I treasure my regular-guyness. I’ve started to think it’s my biggest asset as a writer. Is that I’m pretty much just like everybody else.”
This is a quote from David Foster Wallace, and I can’t stop thinking about it.
Because this is the fight for writers, for artists — to get really ok with the idea that not only are we not special, that the more we dismantle the mountains of acute perceptions and rich interior lives and complications that we believe make us special, the more we connect with those around us, the better we get.
When artists feel like we’ve eaten enough shit, been kicked down enough, we push ourselves back up to standing by assuring ourselves that no matter what — these idiots aren’t artists. They can misunderstand and power-play and fuck stuff up and control and deride the shit they don’t understand — but at the end of the day —
My interior life is richer than theirs is.
It’s like we’re embattled, always, playing king of the mountain of depth and connection and aliveness and despair.
This is why we cycle between superiority and inferiority — because the minute any true artist feels better than others, whether it be in depth or output, she knows enough to know that very position makes her the worst.
You can’t truly believe you’re the best if you’re an artist, because being an artist means questioning, disbelieving, wondering, feeling acute doubt.
No one can ever have a richer interior life than anyone else. To be human is to have a rich interior life, and to claim yours is better is to lose a little humanity.
Because being an artist means abdicating your specialness in favor of your commonness. Your ego wants you to be special, and demarcated, and showily, painfully different. Your ego wants you to have a richer interior life than anyone else. Bragging and self-deprecating are two halves of this coin. Anything that says “look at me! I hurt and you wouldn’t understand.”
But the point of art isn’t to rub people’s faces in stuff they wouldn’t understand. It’s to convey stuff everyone understands — as instantly as possible.
It’s pretty easy to make art about your own rich inner life — it’s all right there, waiting to be harvested. And it’s all about you — your favorite subject!
But the fight for artists is to understand that what’s common is more interesting than any of your rich inner life bullshit. The fight is always to connect, to realize how unimportant we are, that 98% of my rich inner life is contained in all of us.
You become an artist when glimpses of our rich interior life begin appearing all around you.