Welcome to the first installment in a three-part trilogy of text written by Lawrence English, titled A Young Person’s Guide To Hustling In Music and The Arts, subtitled For The Work. Be sure to check out the [intro] to the article.
Hype isn’t usually the answer to success; especially not in the longer term. If you’re out for a spike of recognition, sure, hype will do that. With today’s social media, the ability to create a gust of attention quickly is like some wonderful fantasy Edward Berneys may have had in the 1920s. But easy come; easy go – especially in the ever-distracted world of today.
For something to linger, for art and music to capture minds and be remembered, there needs to be something powerful, meaningful and evocative in the work you present. That’s what we’re all striving for to varying degrees, to be remembered and ultimately to be relevant in future times, and the best way to do that is to commit yourself to producing the best work you can.
Talk is cheap, and getting cheaper, each project you undertake should offer some legacy and lend itself to the overall vision of what it is you do. Time is precious, and while it mightn’t seem so when you’re starting out, it only becomes compounded as you keep on creating. So spend that extra bit of time working at that piece or project. Cutting corners eventually catches up with you – if not publically then certainly it affects your own approaches and processes when making work.
William Burroughs is sorely missed and it’s little gems like this that remind us just how spot on he was. The middle road, the road of mediocrity, this is not the road to aspire to. Take some chances, reach that little bit more than you think you should. Of course, don’t burn yourself and the work out – but at the same time don’t fall short, don’t give in to the easier well-trodden path. There’s nothing more satisfying than the sense you’ve worked, pushed and achieved something that took more than just simple delivery. We’re often faced with mediocrity, conservative creativity and work that occupies at the lower register of innovation – there’s no need for you or your work to exist here.
To quote The Simpsons;
Krusty “What have you done for me lately?”
Bart “I got you that Danish”
Krusty “And I’ll never forget you for it”
Collective memory is short at the best of times. Lets face it, there’s so much creation happening daily that it’s easy for people’s memories to wane. Do you remember what art you were experiencing this time last year? Or what music was capturing your ears? Possibly not.
So for all us cultural producers, documentation plays a crucial role in helping jog the memory. It’s both personal and public – sometimes returning to documentation a couple of years on can be a real learning. What worked, what didn’t and why?
Documentation also helps build a portfolio that’s crucial when you’re attempting to attract new work and partners. There’s nothing more useful than being able to give examples of what it is you do and hopefully the quality to which you do it.