In the dream, I was at a book-release party for a bestselling fantasy novelist named Svévò. His new book had a devil on the cover, high-collared like The New Yorker's foppish mascot, and grinning at the viewer. The devil was based on a more serious rendition, in profile, on the cover of Svévò's family Bible - it was the devil's Bible, the version they use in Hell.
it was a bit - bit - bit like that
Jonah Freeman/Justin Lowe, Stray Light Grey, 2012
Svévò's name was an overlap of two words: "Zvuv," the Hebrew for "fly" - the devil's name is Ba'al Zvuv, "Lord of the Flies," and Svévò was one of his flies. But it was also "Sovev," the Hebrew for "rotate" - Svévò was familiar with the turning of things.
Svévò had always written fiction, but he spent much of his life making a living as an aircraft engineer. By the time his first book was published, he was in his late forties. The book was moderately successful; the next few performed unevenly; only the most recent series had hit the bestseller lists. He was in his fifties before he was able to devote himself full-time to writing novels. At the party, a journalist asked him what it was like, having his ambitions delayed so long.
Svévò said, "It was good, because it made my successes mean more to me, and my failures less."
Here's the point I was trying to figure out how to make. When I look at the online personae of other artists, I am often intimidated, not only by their work, but by its success in the world. I think: "Well, this person is obviously more talented than I am, and they know cooler people, and they're going to get all the things I would like for myself. There is no room for me..."
I am also aware that I've had a string of successful sorts of things lately - those of you who are friends of mine on Facebook have followed this process in the most detail.
Naturally, I have begun to worry that my own recent adventures are beginning to operate in a suppressive way on the ambitions of other artists, as the successes of other artists have acted on me in the past. This is the opposite of my purpose. If I thought I would be suppressing other artists, I would post my artwork and CV and call it a day. The main point of my writing, on this blog and elsewhere, is to make not only art, but life as an artist, more available, not less.
So I wanted to say, in case my worry is justified, that my failures dwarf my successes; that I have always wanted to accomplish more than I have been able to; that I am often disappointed and bitter; that I depend frequently on the people closest to me to remind me that career comes second, and art first; and that I continue not in the absence of difficulty, but in its face.
Like Svévò's, my successes are delayed. I aspire to the equanimity of this strange man, but I do not have it. My work is not a threat to yours.