Thursday, October 27, 2005

Strike A Pose

My last few post have dealt primarily with the starving side of the starving artist paradigm. These I hope have been fun and informative for my legions of readers, although I know many people may feel that the artist side of my project has not been receiving the attention it so duly deserves. Please, dear reader, have no fear. In the interest of the prospective full, well-rounded starving artist, I am here today for the sole purpose of sharing a few words of advice for the cultivation of the artistic side of your starving artist persona.

The first thing to consider when choosing your artistic persona is what kind of artist you are going to pose as. As a general rule, go with what you know the most about. I was an English major and am still an avid reader, so my pose is as a writer. I can discuss books and writing knowledgeably. I can throw out some of the key phrases and names of writers and seem like I know exactly what I am talking about. Now, if I were to pretend to be, say, some sort of musician, I would be screwed. I like music. I listen to music, but I’m not really knowledgeable on the subject. I can’t play any instruments. I can’t sing. As a matter of fact, I think I may be tone deaf. Obviously, my posing as a musician would be an unmitigated failure. People would see right through me, and I would never be able to pass with any credibility. So, remember, when choosing what exact pose to take, go with something you at least know a little something about.

Here it may also be handy to pick something that is not performance based. If you do it is only a matter of time until someone wants to see you perform. At this point, you either must be competent enough in your faux field to perform something, or you are exposed. If you claim to be a guitar player in a band, you better have at least some small repertoire of songs you can play very well. If you claim to be a singer, you’re voice must at least be a little above passable. I have avoided this problem by claiming to be a writer. Writers never have to worry about demand performances. This conversation has never occurred with a writer:

Jerk: So, you’re a writer?
Starving Artist: Yeah.
Jerk: Then write something.
SA: What? Right now? I don’t have my typewriter on me?
Jerk: Here. Use mine.

A writer never faces this dilemma. No one wants to see a writer write. Few people really want to read what you write. They’ll say they do, but they never really follow through with it. But if you say you’re a guitar player. People want to hear you play, and they want to hear it now. Because you chose a pose which demands and often provides instant satisfaction, you need to have something ready at hand. (Just as a side note, I do have some short stories ready on hand in case someone really, really wants to read something I’ve written and will not be denied.)

Also, be sure not to strike a pose too high up on the cultural ladder. It comes with too much baggage and is way to high maintenance. If you claim to be writing an opera, good luck living the starving artist life style. You can’t stock your cupboards with generic noodles and not have nice things in this case. People expect the full package from you if you aim too high. It’s not enough for you to claim to know about opera and sing a few bars. People expect you to drink expensive wines, wear expensive clothes, and eat at fine restaurants. They expect a well rounded personality which you may not be able to provide. So, aim for a more proletariat pose. You’re an artist of the common man. At a bar you’re just as likely to be drinking Miller Light as a fine Chianti. You wear jeans and sweatshirts. It’s a hard balance to strike. You are an artist and can appreciate the finer – read expensive things – but you are also a common man, one of the guys, and don’t want to be treated any different. Once again writer works out for me. People don’t really know what a writer should look or act like, so you have some freedom. Plus, half of what I write is comedy, which automatically drops people’s expectations up to fifty percent.

Finally, have fun with the pose. Use it when it is useful – with the ladies – and drop it when it is not. This pose is you’re creation. Do what you want with it. Make up facts about your life – this works as long as you’re not with at least some people who know you well. Get crazy, but not too crazy. You want people to actually believe you. The starving artist pose may or may not actually help you eat, but, remember, it’s more fun to be a starving artist, than to be just plain starving.