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The artist and the chip on his shoulder

Dear Janet,

Today was one of those days that leave me wondering why I even try.

One the one hand, I met with a guy who’s taken an interest in my pictures. It should be a triumph, really. I mean, someone taking me seriously.

I’ve had a chip on my shoulder the size of Montana, an “I’m gonna show those fuckers” attitude that has carried me through some of my roughest moments.

When I was a kid, I believed parents, friends, friends of friends, and enemies who told me I was never going to be a writer. I wrote at home, in private, only occasionally taking something into the light of day and asking, “What do you think?”

It took a long damn time to get over that. After repeated disappointments and rejections that snapped my ego back like a pinched finger, I became determined. I was going to show them. I used that to become a writer.

But that’s not enough to sustain a life of writing. I wasn’t able to rid myself of the constant doubt and uncertainty I felt at every criticism and comment. Instead, it came in handy then when needed to develop an independence that has allowed me to continue without selling out. Screw them, I thought to myself, I don’t have to listen to their shit.

Fortunately, after a time, I quit letting others determine what I was going to write and how I was going to feel about myself and my work. Back in 2000, I quit my job at a local newspaper when the new owners demanded a hand in what I wrote. Screw it, I said, I will not sell out. I watched the editor do so. I did not and could not take that direction for my writing. I’d rather suffer the vagaries of obscurity than to diminish the value of my principles and my art for money, ease, and comfort.

I realize I haven’t really dodged that negative motivation–the “I’ll show those bastards” attitude. It’s a more low self-esteem than any kind of reality. I know I can be a writer and an artist. Thousands of people who call themselves professional artists are really hacks who had the guts and motivation to show their work. My stuff hits that mark and goes beyond. I can do this.

I appreciate your efforts to encourage and promote me in this. I have hopes, guarded, perhaps, but they are hopes that I think are based in some reality.


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