It’s Never Too Late to Be What You Might Have Been

I remember when I was first on the periphery of what I guess we could call my screenwriting career and some Hollywood dickhead asked me “What’s your quote?” He meant “what’s your rate, your fee, your market value” — all of which was zero at the time. But what I thought he was after was more akin to “Play it again, Sam,” or “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a fuck” — you know, a movie quote. 

I mean that’s what people quote anyway — the movies.
Except, I have a new quote — and it’s not from the movies. 
In fact, I hate where I got it.

It was the worst. It was a meme — you know, with an image of a sunset, the words hovering there, in all caps, over the shimmering sea as if belched directly from God, like some Wayne White word painting.

It reads: “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”

First off, fuck you, meme. 
And you too, God. 
And Wayne White — okay, you get a pass, but…
Fuck you to the person who didn’t credit the quote’s author, George Eliot (I looked it up). Which became its own wormhole, since everything I know about Eliot fits in two data points:

A) He was a she. Or, rather, she used a male nom de plume because women writers weren’t taken seriously in the 19th century.

B) She is not George Sand, who was also a 19th century writer and used her pseudonym for the same reasons. Also, names were just plain complicated for her, as she once wrote: “My name is not Marie-Aurore de Saxe, Marquise of Dudevant, as several of my biographers have asserted, but Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin.” And then she probably added, “Screw it, call me ‘George.’”

So, George Eliot writes “It’s never too late to be what you might have been” and a century and a half later, Rebecca Mead, in a New Yorker essay titled Middlemarch and Me tries to find the origin of the quotation, which she first read on a refrigerator magnet. Then Mead observes, “the sentence didn’t sound to me like anything George Eliot would say” and some literary sleuthing ensues. Spoiler alert — it’s made up. Probably by a refrigerator magnet scribe, who hopefully took her own advice and got out of the magnet business.
Which is good advice.

It’s not too late to be what you might have been.

What did you want to be? I wanted to be many things, too many things, surely. But the unified field theory always had art in the equation. I’m not entirely sure how that came to feel so far away until recently but I think it went like this: Art led to entertainment, which led to media, which will probably lead to memes if I’m not careful. I think I caught myself just in time, hence this public psychic striptease I’ve been conducting as I peel away a lifetime’s accumulated bullshit and become what I might have been.

And if you come across a Hollywood dickhead, tell him what happened to me, then tell him that the rights are tied up in with a refrigerator magnet. Then run far, far away and hide — maybe change your name to George? — and then become what you might have been. It’s not too late.

 

Keep the Aspidistra Dying: I’m an Artist Not a Creative Entrepreneur

When you’re a broke-ass-art-person, there’s about million podcasts and blogs and online courses encouraging you to create podcasts and blogs and online courses to help monetize your creative process by sharing it with other artists who, in turn, will create more podcasts and blogs and online courses. 
 
For me, this puts the “meta” in “metastasis” as this sort of thinking has been like a tumor in my creative career. So, Ima gonna take this here buck knife, put back that bottle of what-the-fuck-else-I’m-gonna-do, and cut the goddamn thing outta me.
 
As a career-long writer, I’ve been down this diverting wormhole more than a few times. Every time my industry was “disrupted” or I self-disrupted, I would start selling tours of the rag and bone shop of my expertise. I wrote ebooks, made podcasts, consulted. It worked, until it didn’t, and I’ve come to the personal conclusion that this kind of shit has derailed more than a few of us art peoploids.
 
Remember when we produced writing and art of substance instead of content? That’s what I’m talking about
 
I arrived at this crossroads last week after two incidents: First, I received eight emails from an artist hawking an online “creative entrepreneur” marketing class. After the second email — in an hour — I concluded that the spammer in question was a shitty a marketer and artist.

The second incident was of my own making: I pitched a couple of night classes to the local adult school because I figured I’d burnish my pseudo-professorial pose with some actual teaching. I focused on material that aligned with my own interests — something about Art House cinema, weird media, and then I threw in a ringer, the comparatively banal Podcasting for Non-Techies, a podcast class I’d taught before — a fine how-to that fits in a lunch hour but not a problem the Internet hasn’t already solved for you with thousands of different, cheaper tutorials. Guess which one the adult school booked? 
 
Listen, I’m happy to help, but if everyone wants to do what me and apparently everyone else is also doing, I better double down on the art to remain competitive, let alone sane.
 
I know this isn’t a popular opinion but if I was seeking popularity I’d be more famous by now and not ranting into the void of the Internet. But seeing as you’re here, and I’m here, I’ll presume we’re part of the same band of outsiders. We’re a Bande à part like the Godard film, or Tarantino’s production company, which spelled it A-P-A-R-T because, you know, the 90s. 
 
But what about the skill set we’ve developed? The bullshit corporate skills acquired in newsrooms and boardrooms (and probably men’s rooms)? What of these skills that weaponized my nascent talent until I became an overqualified but underwhelmed part of the very systems I once sought to destroy or at least avoid?
 
Like any Frankenstein monster, I suppose I’ll turn on my creators and destroy the systems that created me. I’ll be the art-guy equivalent of Liam Neeson: “I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a fucking nightmare for people like you…”
 
Of course, this a difficult position to monetize, to invoke the parlance. But I’m gonna strike that jargon from my vocabulary — so what if it’s the secret password to a meal ticket. Maybe I’ll just lose some goddamn weight. And most that, my friends, we’ll probably just be baggage — full of mixed metaphors.
 
I’m done shaming the starving artist, the romantics, the ones we tell that they just have to get their work out there and pray they get the right algorithmic alchemy going so the gates to the middle class open wide. Really, at this point, for me the only reason to keep the aspidistra flying is for target practice.
 
And you know who wrote Keep the Aspidistra Flying, right? Orwell! Will we ever listen to him? Maybe if he had a podcast and blog and online course, we’d pay attention but I dare say we can learn more — and teach more — through art.

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