Last night I was laying around, super high, listening to some of Prince’s music, trying to articulate exactly what we lost. The dude meant so much to so many people, but the outpouring of love and sadness from people who actually have talent is what struck me the most. He was a genius’ genius.
He mattered to people who can properly evaluate greatness because they’re also great. Think about the Chapelle Show episode with Charlie Murphy’s basketball story (if you haven’t seen it, please just see yourself out). The story is about a bunch of famous people at the top of their creative game being overwhelmed by Prince’s greatness in all things, not just his music. It’s exactly like famous swordsman Miyamoto Musashi’s quote, “If you know the Way broadly, you will see it in all things.”
Prince knew the way and he knew how to take you there. All you have to do is look at his proteges like Janelle Monae, Sheila E, Carmen Electra, Vanity, the list just goes on. They are all great.
Carmen Electra spoke yesterday about what she learned from him: work ethic, kindness, and boundaries. She also revealed they dated, but kept it secret all these years because he didn’t want people to take her for granted. He knew that even being in the presence of his royal penis was enough to catapult someone to stardom. What an icon.
I hope musicians take note of what a true work ethic married to original vision looks like. So many people have one of those, but never work on the other. They might think they have too much natural talent to grind. Those people are the worst. Others might work hard, but actually suck. Like really scarf multiple bags of dicks suck. Those cases are sadder, but there is a tried and true solution: double your efforts and commit to a longer runway. Nothing is better than an underdog. I still love that fucking movie Rudy.
If you’re an artist and you have talent, all that’s left is to work hard. Harder than you think you have to. Against all your business. You have to sacrifice. In olden days the artists would let blood flow from animal or human sacrifice to call down inspiration from their horrible gods. All you probably need to do is turn off the Xbox or stop binge watching American Pickers.
As you may have picked up from some of my writing, I like to think of myself as something of an artist when it comes to writing. I’m not a master or anything, but I am a serious and considerate student of my art. I am seeking The Way through this and have been for some time. Here are some things I thought about last night as I drifted off to sleep, listening to the new Strugill Simpson album for like the 100th time.
Don’t sell the art you care about for commercials. You can knock out a project to pay the bills or buy some new toys, but the things that speed your heart up and get you our of bed taking notes in the middle of the night need to be reserved. Charles Bowden did an interview where he lays out his belief that writers (or any artist) have been touched by god and to use those skills for advertising is a sin. I’m partial to this outlook.
Some people whine about the whole shadow career concept; where you end up hating life because you’re in a job that’s similar to, but to exactly like your dream. Fuck that fuck boi noize. Look, having a career that uses the same skills as your passion is not a bad thing at all. The only trick to it is being more disciplined to work on your own stuff, too.
Prince’s music was never really used in commercials. The only even mildly offensive to my ears work is the Batman soundtrack stuff. I know some folks like that cheeseball music, but let’s just agree that we all hope he made some Batdollars off that one.
Uncompromising excellence. There is no such thing as good enough to ship for art. It’s either as good as it can be or you’re being a lazy coward. Finish the shit and make it good. All that said, you need to pick a deadline and try to keep to it, otherwise your process will just drag on and nothing will ever happen.
I get it, that whole paragraph above is contradictory. You need pressure to be great. The best pressure comes from hard deadlines and imminent disaster. Disaster makes its way into your life on its own schedule, if he’s late, let him be. You can set your own deadlines with a general sense of safety of outcome.
I’ve been working on this idea for a book about a famous atheist who finds himself living in a house that is haunted by spirits incapable of anything but cliche paranormal activity. The protagonist is affronted both by their unwillingness to bend to his secular agenda and their disregard for originality. The working title is The Inconvenience.
I’ve been stalling on this one mostly because I don’t have a hard deadline. So here we go. My goal is to get this thing wrapped up by this Christmas. I’ll have to figure out some consequence if I fail. Something brutal.
Pay yourself first. This is an old school business idea, but for me it means do your own work before you do work for other people. Lately I’ve been doing most of my writing early in the morning. My mind is sharpest then and I don’t fuck with email until I have a few things down.
I think as I get a little more used to my workout routine, I’m going to try and make it to the 5:30am session. This’ll give me another five hours of working time a week. Do I want to get up that early? Fuck no. But I’ve got that damn deadline now.
Whatever you’re doing, do it sexy. Even after Prince became a church lady, he still had that atomic sexiness that set panties on fire in the 80s. Sex is everything for primates. The best art titillates. I don’t think anyone’s ever rubbed one out after reading this blog, but that’s a solid goal for any writer to have.