By Callie Oettinger | Published: April 26, 2013
In a recent New York Time interview with Louis C.K., Dave Itzkoff commented, “You have the platform. You have the level of recognition.”
Louis C.K. replied with a question: “So why do I have the platform and the recognition?”
Itzkoff answered, “At this point you’ve put in the time.”
Pause after you read Louis C.K.’s follow-up:
There you go. There’s no way around that. There’s people that say: “It’s not fair. You have all that stuff.” I wasn’t born with it. It was a horrible process to get to this. It took me my whole life. If you’re new at this — and by “new at it,” I mean 15 years in, or even 20 — you’re just starting to get traction. Young musicians believe they should be able to throw a band together and be famous, and anything that’s in their way is unfair and evil. What are you, in your 20s, you picked up a guitar? Give it a minute.
Put in the Time
Almost every author I’ve met has mentioned a desire to be interviewed by Oprah, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and/or Charlie Rose.
I get it. Being interviewed by any of those individuals will garner the authors attention and book sales.
But the reality is that most authors don’t land those interviews right out of the gate. And, while those interviews can spike initial sales, they don’t keep things going on their own. They’re a short-term fix.
In an interview with The Paris Review William Faulkner spoke about what writers need to write. The same applies to doing outreach for your projects, sharing/marketing them:
The writer doesn’t need economic freedom. All he needs is a pencil and some paper. I’ve never known anything good in writing to come from having accepted any free gift of money. The good writer never applies to a foundation. He’s too busy writing something. If he isn’t first rate he fools himself by saying he hasn’t got time or economic freedom. Good art can come out of thieves, bootleggers, or horse swipes. People really are afraid to find out just how much hardship and poverty they can stand.
Outreach is Hard Work
Doing outreach/marketing our art is hard work. It’s painful. Reviewers can be nasty and comments left by today’s online community are about as pleasant as a rabid Pit Bull.
It’s hard to look for the good and keep pushing through the crap, piling up faster than ants at a Fourth of July picnic.
But you do it. You don’t say you’re “too busy” that you haven’t “got time or economic freedom.” You figure it out and keep pushing, even if it takes you 50 years.
I Don’t Do Outreach. I Create for Myself.
Last month, the New York Times ran a few articles about artist Arthur Pinajian, “a reclusive artist whom the art world had not known much about. Now, 14 years after his death, he has fans who mention him in the same sentence as Gauguin and Cézanne.”
When Pinajian died, his sister, in whose home “Pinajian had an 8-foot-by-8-foot studio” and who “supported him for much of his life” told a cousin, Peter Najarian, “Oh, just put it all in the garbage. . . . He said himself to just leave it all for the garbagemen.”
Najarian kept the paintings instead.
Read the article for the full story. Bottom line: Though Pinajian had networked earlier in his life, he became a “hermit.” After a point, it seems neither he nor his art left his studio.
If this was his goal, fine.
But the selfish side of me asks, But what about us? We would have loved to have known about your work earlier.
While you didn’t create for money, money it seems is being made off you work—by those who didn’t create it. Do you care?
Perhaps he’d answer that he didn’t care. That money wasn’t the point—and that he doesn’t care if others profit.
Money aside, what about the art? Isn’t the creation itself something that is meant to be shared?
In the same Paris Review interview, Faulkner said:
If I had not existed, someone else would have written me, Hemingway, Dostoyevsky, all of us. Proof of that is that there are about three candidates for the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays. But what is important is Hamlet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, not who wrote them, but that somebody did. The artist is of no importance. Only what he creates is important, since there is nothing new to be said. Shakespeare, Balzac, Homer have all written about the same things, and if they had lived one thousand or two thousand years longer, the publishers wouldn’t have needed anyone since.
The art came for a reason.
And perhaps something inspired Pinajian’s cousin to keep it for the same reason: It wasn’t meant for the trash, but for a wider audience.
The same might be said of John Kennedy Toole’s mother, who held her son’s manuscript tight after he committed suicide, and then pushed until she found a publisher for his book, A Confederacy of Dunces.
At the end of a second New York Times article about Pinajian appears,:
“He thought he was going to be the next Picasso,” Mr. Aramian said. “They believed he would become famous and this would all pay off for them one day, but it just never happened. So he became frustrated and withdrew from everything and just painted.”
I wonder about what he was or wasn’t doing to share his work earlier. And I wonder why the art community of that time didn’t recognize his talent. And whether the best came after he closed himself off.
One thing I know: His work was meant to be shared. I wish it had happened while he was alive. And, I wish I knew why it is easier for some and harder for others—why the one-hit wonders break out and the long-term artists are recognized after they’ve died—if at all.
For writers, the Internet has opened opportunities that don’t translate into other mediums. Viewing a wall-sized Monet isn’t the same on a laptop as it is in person. I’m not living in that world, but I imagine it a harder place to build a following, to break into. But, the benefits of an established platform remain the same.
Back to the Platform and Louis C.K.
What about those artists who do make it big, yet stay out of the spotlight? They don’t do interviews. They don’t muck around with press tours. They write. That’s it.
How did they do it?
Good writing and at some point either they—or someone else—built a platform. And now? That platform is on auto-pilot; it hit a point of self-sustainability.
And that brings us back to Louis C.K.
You have to put in the time. In addition to creating/building, you have to build the platform.
Some people win the lottery, but most of us hammer away for decades. That’s not a bad thing. It takes patience. It takes commitment.
As Faulkner said, “People really are afraid to find out just how much hardship and poverty they can stand.”
Follow Louis C.K.’s advice and “Give it a minute.”
At least a minute…