November 20, 2004

the devil gets his due eventually


More thoughts on "How To Be Creative".

29. Whatever choice you make, The Devil gets his due eventually.

Selling out to Hollywood comes with a price. So does not selling out. Either way, you pay in full, and yes, it invariably hurts like hell.
People are fond of spouting out the old cliché about how Van Gogh never sold a painting in his lifetime. Somehow his example serves to justify to us, decades later, that there is somehow merit in utter failure.

Perhaps, but the man did commit suicide. The market for his work took off big-time shortly after his death. Had he decided to stick around another few decades he most likely would’ve entered old age quite prosperous. And sadly for failures everywhere, the cliché would have lost a lot of its power.

The fact is, the old clichés work for us in abstract terms, but they never work out in real life quite the same way. Life is messy; clichés are clean and tidy.

Of course, there is no one “true way”. Whether you follow the example of fame-and-glamor Warhol or poor-and-miserable Van Gogh doesn’t matter in absolute terms. Either extreme may raise you to the highest heights or utterly destroy you. I don’t know the answer, nor does anybody else. Nobody but you and God knows why you were put on this Earth, and even then…

So when a young person asks me whether it’s better to sell out or stick to one’s guns, I never know what to answer. Warhol sold out shamelessly after 1968 (the year he was wounded by the gunshot of a would-be assassin) and did OK by it. I know some great artists who stuck to their guns, and all it did was make them seem more and more pathetic.

Anyone can be an idealist. Anyone can be a cynic. The hard part lies somewhere in the middle i.e. being human.

Posted by hugh macleod at November 20, 2004 12:31 PM | TrackBack

I think "sticking to one's guns" is more about not being able to tolerate what the alternative entails (as opposed to never actually being offended by it in the first place, but temporarily acting like you're going against something in order to gain cred). It's always a weighing of values in one way or another; what can you stand versus what can't you stand. Everybody has his own hierarchy.

A lot of people, for example, think Phil Collins "sold out". Did he?

Posted by: AcouSvnt at November 20, 2004 4:26 PM

"Anyone can be an idealist. Anyone can be a cynic. The hard part lies somewhere in the middle i.e. being human."

You hit the nail on the head!

Posted by: Sean Winstead at November 22, 2004 5:32 PM