When I was a kid, I wanted to be an artist. I spent a lot of time drawing — or at least trying to. Problem was, I rarely finished a drawing before starting a new one. I probably could have been good, if I had committed more seriously to it, had the patience and actually finished what I started. Instead, I constantly compared my skill set to that of the best artists I knew. Their work put mine to shame. Could’ve been because one of the people whose work I compared mine to was my Uncle’s — a man who had art degrees from various Universities and had been painting and sketching his entire life.
When you’re eight years old, it’s probably best not to compare your abstract, half finished drawings of trees and clouds to the work found inside an actual artist’s charcoal sketchbook. It’s a sure confidence crusher. By the time I was ten or so, I left the drawing and painting to Uncle Dave and decided to find another dream. On the rare occasion I’m given the opportunity to do so today, I still look through his sketchbooks in awe. The man is exceptionally talented.
Throughout middle school, one of my best friends was this kid who spent ALL of his time in class working on these deeply complex and creative graffiti pieces in his notebooks. He did this obsessively and possessed a truly divine and God given talent for doing so. It blew my mind how he was often reprimanded for doing this as opposed to being praised and honored for it. Schools got it all fucking backwards man. He never graduated High School.
Though I didn’t think much of it at the time, teachers were constantly praising essays I wrote and any other assignment I turned in that involved writing. It came easy to me. I just assumed they were being nice. Besides, could they not see I often just bullshitted my way through it to reach my five paragraph or couple hundred word count quota? It was like taking candy from a baby.
Then came my obsession with rap music and the art of writing lyrics and songs. Any computer time I was granted was spent looking up rap lyrics. Not to songs I knew — but of underground rappers I never heard of. I discovered some of my favorite artists through doing this. Lyrical geniuses whose work I would have probably never would have otherwise heard about. I wanted to write like they did. I started spending all of my free time doing so. The problem was, I had no desire to actually record or rap. I just liked writing.
There was a time I told myself, If I had Eminem’s talent, I would spend all of my time writing. Not realizing the irony of the fact Eminem probably largely acquired that skill set, through spending all of his time writing.
My Stepfather introduced me to the classic works of many great stand up comedians when I was young — probably inappropriately young actually. Regardless, it resulted in me developing a deep respect for the works of legends such as George Carlin, Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy.
I realized the wonderful effect humor and comedy could have on one’s life. To be able to make people laugh at will, was truly an art. The timing, the delivery and the willingness to blurt out what everyone was thinking — but wouldn’t say. I realized as a budding preteen, to be able to make a girl laugh was to win over both her heart and mind. So I kept watching comedy specials.
When I was sixteen, my family and I made the painfully long drive from Philadelphia to Orlando, Florida for vacation. My mother bought me this Janet Evanovich book called Seven Up, at one of the white trash truck stops along the way. I read the whole thing in a few hours — and was inspired to begin writing my own novel. I wrote like fifteen pages of a story that was going fucking nowhere quick, realized it was bad and haven’t wrote a lick of fiction since. But the writing seed was no doubt planted. I just didn’t know it.
Fast forward to when I was 21, had just lost everything I cared about and was aimlessly roaming a Border’s book store just outside of Atlantic City, New Jersey. I typically would just sit there and read due to the fact I was often too broke to buy the book I was reading. On my way out the door, I came across the title that would have caught most 21 year olds attention — I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell — written by a man named Tucker Max. I flipped it over and began reading the back cover.
“My name is Tucker Max — and I am an asshole”
Boom, I was sold. I cleared out the last fifteen bucks I had to my name and bought it. As ridiculous as this may seem to anyone who’s familiar with Tucker’s work, that book changed my life. Reading it was what made me decide, not that I wanted to be a writer — but that I was going to be a writer.
I polished off every book Tucker released and then read his blog as well. It was through his blog, I discovered the work of both James Altucher and Ryan Holiday. These three authors have had a more profound effect on my writing than any other, despite the fact I don’t necessarily write like any of them. Or maybe I collectively write like all of them, I don’t know.
Though I admittedly mainly read nonfiction, what I love about my favorite TV shows is the writing. The writing on shows like Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy, make me want to write shows of the sort. I’m easily inspired, I suppose. While I may never actually do so, I appreciate the art of it all.
Artists come in many forms and that being said, I believe true artists have a deeply profound appreciation for most of, if not all of them. Art doesn’t have to involve paint or a museum. Creative geniuses can turn a literal pile of garbage into a work of art. I know chefs who don’t cook — they create culinary masterpieces with food. The kitchen is their studio. The key component remains the same in all the forms I’ve mentioned and that’s creativity. The willingness to create and experiment as you play with ideas until you get it just right. To me, that’s all an artist is. Someone who shows up everyday and creates. And I respect each and every size, shape and form they come in.