Stephen Elliott Says it Well

Stephen Elliott, author of the Adderall Diaries, among other publications, has a great email list you can sign up for here (upper right hand corner of the page at the time of this posting).

He gave me permission to share the following from a recent note; it’s a thought-provoker of WHY BOTHER with art, a question I wrestled with in this post.

“…I think Jobs is becoming this icon because he continually ignored other people’s advice and so many of us want to think we intuitively know better than the people around us, that the only thing stopping us from becoming the next Steve Jobs is an unfortunate tendency to take other people seriously. I don’t know that that’s a good lesson.

“That lesson is the George Lucas model. Lucas creates a story and forces everyone to follow his script. On the whole, Lucas’ best work is not as good as Francis Ford Coppola’s best work. Coppola is much more of a collaborator. Francis likes to screen his movies often while editing his work. He liked feedback. It’s been said that the genius behind Apocalypse Now was actually Walter Murch. Murch was one of three editors on the film. He was also the sound designer. And even if it’s true it’s unlikely George Lucas would have been able to really make use of Murch’s talents.
“Maybe the key is in finding your strengths. Do you do better working with others? Do you need someone to weed through your ideas and chose the best ones or is your skill weeding through theirs? Or are other people just impediments to your vision?
“Bill Gates said something about closed systems and Apple’s success. He said, Sure, a closed system works when Steve Jobs is in control. But only then.
“Which leaves what? Amazon, a predatory company which makes crappy products. Google, a company run by engineers. Jobs believed that engineers need to answer to designers, who he thought of as poets. He believed in the intersection of liberal arts and science. The reason the iPod was a success was because Steve Jobs loved music.
“In film, someone like Steve Jobs would be an auteur. In books there are only auteurs. Though it’s interesting that one of our most successful authors, Dave Eggers, is much more than a writer. He’s also the designer, and the publisher. Eggers is probably the most charismatic person I’ve ever met. Which is not to take from his books, which are consistently great and seeming to get better with each iteration. More interestingly, James Franco. Franco isn’t famous for acting, he’s famous for not acting. Franco became famous when he left Hollywood and got into writing and art.
“I’m not sure where I’m going with this. I’m not trying to give advice, I’m just saying there are different models. We were talking yesterday about how there are artists in every medium. You can be an artist and a cook, an artist and a small business owner. It’s more about what you’re trying to do: trying to create something good or trying to collect a paycheck so you can go be with your family. …
“My father’s art was in chasing women. He wrote beautiful letters, establishing relationships across the country. He kept pictures they sent him in a drawer in his office. I think about that when I think about my erotica collection, My Girlfriend Comes To The City And Beats Me Up. Because sometimes I think that collection is really a book length personal ad.
“I think when we think about art we’re thinking about how to be happy. We’re looking for meaning, and maybe that’s why Jobs didn’t believe in philanthropy. Meaning hangs from a thread. It’s like currency, a matter of faith…”

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