My question today is: Why do you write? I read this excellent short story by Nikolai Gogol (pictured left), “The Portrait,” the other day and I wanted to share it. What begins as merely a fantastic story about a portrait with supernatural powers to destroy the lives of its owners becomes a much more interesting, and metaphysical, study of art and artists. While we believe that the portrait is possessed by the spirit of the evil moneylender who is the subject, it isn’t so simple. He tells his son, “I will say only that I painted it with loathing, that I felt no love for my work at the time.” The fault doesn’t lie with the subject but the painter. The artist goes on, “He who has talent in him must be purer in soul than anyone else,” another telling line that I am still trying to understand. Anyway, it isn’t some phony spirit encased in the portrait, but the evil feelings of disdain the artist placed in the painting that makes it haunted.
Does the motive to make art have to be pure? The litmus test of my work’s worth is whether I enjoy reading it. I am no great expert on what the world wants, but if I enjoy my work it’s enough for me. Other people write to appeal to a mass-audience, something I understand, and something I will have to do if I want to become a Screenwriter, but I don’t quite like it. Ultimately, is that the right reason to write, simply to attract a large number of people? Is that celebrity and wealth so important?
But then I think to myself, why do I write a blog, why do I live in LA, why do I check my Youtube and Facebook accounts obsessively? Are my motives purely honest? I don’t think they are, but I also think a healthy desire to reach more people and to seek feedback is normal. Right? Where do you cross the line between, say, a Stephin Merritt (effortlessly talented, almost unknown) and a Lady Gaga (the opposite)? Most screenwriters are not well-known, outside Diablo Cody, they aren’t exactly Entertainment Weekly material. Anyway, I would really like to hear what you think. How do you balance that desire for the bright lights with the same longing to write? Is art provoked by unwholesome desires wrong? Is it OK to die unknown and be discovered only in death, like Kafka? Would you be cool with that?