Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Art Of Selling Yourself

On the way home tonight, I pondered what to write about for my nightcap blog. While I thought about different topics I could write about (The Incredible Hulk--it's a hit or miss, the new Coldplay album--same thing but only time will tell), a question, for some reason, kept popping up in my mind: how much of myself do I put in my writing? You can take that on any level, you like, but I choose to look at it two ways:

1. The things that I write that are true. This includes certain biographical statistics such as place of birth, ethnicity, names of family and friends, opinions, personal experiences and adventures, and my own personal name.

2. The style that I write in, and the choice of words and sentence structures that I use. The way you write, whether dramatic, suspenseful, comedic, or whatever genre, is unique to each individual. Eventually, after hopefully several novels, a reader can sense the style of the writer, that is to say, his or her essence, and perhaps even his or her character. J.K. Rowling, for example, has her own style, which people can instantly recognize.

When it comes to entertaining for a living, the art of the creator is ultimately, in a way, selling yourself: you sell your vision, your ideas, your thoughts, your perception, your depiction, interpretation, whatever. You hope to draw in a consumer who not only takes in all your work but also swallows, well, you. No matter how separate a piece of work is from an author, ultimately, it is still a part of them, because it came from them. There are some that boldly avoid this direction as they create pieces that are far from their true nature, and there are those that lovingly embrace it. Musicians, writers, and filmmakers all go through this struggle of balance or extremity. However, when an artist gets very personal, it opens the door for vulnerability. Look at Chris Carraba of Dashboard Confessional, who wears his heart on his sleeve and relives every painful memory he can think of in all his songs (I do guilty-pleasurely (sp?) love his music, but he's still kind of a bitch). He's now made millions. Look at Antwone Fisher, written by Antwone Fisher, himself, who literally exposed his deeply intimate problems on screen for the world to see. The film was critically acclaimed. But I wonder how he now feels, knowing that everyone knows who he is. Not just by face, but by character and past. I guess, maybe that's the key to it all--not giving a fuck about what people think. The best inspiration comes from your life. As they say, write what you know.

Chuck Klosterman (Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, Killing Yourself To Live) and Tucker Max (I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell) are two writers who write about two completely different things yet essentially focus on the same theme: themselves. Some may call this narcissism, but to write about real life instead of a fictional world somehow breaks down that barrier of connection. In fictional works, readers could think that the main character was like their friend because they got to know him or her so well. But, because the mere fact that you live in the same world, same reality as the character/person, breathe the same air they do and experience the things you do, that connection is only stronger. Their existence reaffirms your own. Chuck Klosterman writes about the thing he loves: pop culture. Yet he also realizes certain philosophical tendencies that exist within in this realm. The only way to write about it, though, is to write about himself. The philosophical experience is unique to every single person, and the only way to truly interpret it. He wants people to share in his passion and think about things the way he does. He sells himself to get his points across.

Tucker Max also writes about the things he loves: drinking and fucking. And he's not afraid to admit. He revels in his dirtbagness, his assholeness, his low standards and morals. He fuckin' brags about it. I recently read Tucker Tries Buttsex, Hilarity Does Not Ensue--it was the the most degrading story I have ever read. And he even prefaces it by saying he knows how awful of a human being he is. Yet (admittedly and guiltily), I laughed my fucking ass off. Because he did these things, not only did it reaffirm my own good character (because I hope to God I never do something like that) but also let me experience something unfathomable yet somehow realistic. This goes to the point of even modern day horror cinema referred to as torture porn (Saw, Hostel, The Hills Have Eyes). We pay to see people get fucked up. Although we judge Tucker Max as vile and offensive and inhuman, the joke's on us because we are the ones that pay to be entertained by this. Because we like to experiences things outside our comfort zone, or our nature. Because of us, he's a millionaire for being an asshole.

I'm struggling to find the delicate balance between revealing certain things about myself and talking about the things I love in an analytical fashion in my writing. I do not like to rule out subjectivity in writing because the most valid reason one could have for an opinion is that it is simply what they think. Their past and perception of the world has shaped the thoughts and ideas that they have. There are even consequences to opening up on page or screen even if it does not directly affect you It could affect those in your life. The people you write about, or base your characters off of, can feel misrepresented or even hurt that you would reveal things about their lives and personalities. The best artists to me then are the ones that are the bravest--they bare their soul, which creates an intimate, personal experience that connects to audiences on whole new levels. They are not afraid of the vulnerability. Or maybe they are, but this is one way to battle it instead of bottling it up inside. The artist becomes an inspiration, or simply another mentor. While I certainly try to perform my number two way of putting myself in writing through style, the number one way is still a struggle. I hope I'm getting better at it, but fuck, selling yourself is an art form in and of itself.

A Day in the Life (Of Me) Playlist
1. Good Morning (Intro) by Kanye West
2. Be by Common
3. Daydreamin' by Lupe Fiasco feat. Jill Scott
4. Trying To Find A Balance by Atmosphere
5. Rainy Day Women #12 and #35 by Bob Dylan
6. Because I Got High by Afroman
7. I'm Chillin' by The Game
8. Bohemian Like You by The Dandy Warhols
9. We Are All On Drugs by Weezer
10. Alpha Beta Gaga by Air
11. Maria by Green Day
12. Love and Marriage by Frank Sinatra
13. In My Life by The Beatles
14. Everything's Not Lost by Coldplay
15. Los Angeles, I'm Yours by The Decemberists
16. People Are Strange by The Doors
17. Lightning Rod by Guster
18. Shimmy Shimmy Ya by Ol' Dirty Bastard
19. Dazed and Confused by Led Zepellin
20. Long Nights by Eddie Vedder
21. Don't You Forget About Me by The Simple Minds
22. Donate by My Morning Jacket
23. Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve
24. Tomorrow Comes Today by Gorillaz

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