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Real Life Trials of an Author

March 11, 2006

Have you ever wondered why movies are so shallow these days?  I’ll tell you it’s because our society makes life hell for the artist or author trying to get their lives going…

I just read something by Immanuel Kant that seemed to fine tune many of my views:

Kant, Perpetual Peace (talking about democracy) “The ‘whole people’ so called, who carry their measures are really not all, but only a majority: so that here the universal will is in contradiction with itself and with the principle of freedom.”

This is really a fascinating statement in that it seems to identify a logical bad basis in the theory of democracy.  The whole idea of democracy is that it gives the people freedom, but, as Kant points out, it only provides freedom to the majority.  This is an important point, and let me elaborate.

What this means is the more you differ from the majority, the worse democracy, as well as the society it produces, is going to be for you.  I can’t help but think about people such as myself, and my good friends Dale and Andrew.  I will examine each one of us individually.

Dale:
Dale is an artist, and as many of you know, artists normally have a difficult time getting their money situation worked out.  What I believe is most frustrating to Dale is that the modern world looks at Dale and says, “You have to work.”  But Dale thinks, when making a wonderful deep meaning painting – THAT IS WORK. I completely agree with him.  In fact, it’s hard work that takes great skill, precision, and imagination. But, modern society looks back at him and says, no it isn’t. In fact, they tell him what he does is so worthless that he can’t even easily make enough money doing artwork to provide a place to live and food to eat.

Oh, but wait, anyone in America can become an entrepreneur and make a living.  That is somewhat true, and somewhat false.  True he could get out there and market himself and make a living at art.  There are problems with this, unfortunately.  1) It takes a ton of work and study to learn how to properly market and brand yourself as a celebrity.  2) It oftentimes takes money to market yourself.  3) ‘Marketing’ himself could easily end up taking a lot of his time, and he really just wants to do art.

Dale doesn’t want much.  He just wants a place to live, and food to eat, art supplies, a way to show his art, and, most importantly time to work on art.  You would think that with all the modern technology we have today providing Dale with such a simple living would be easy.  Unfortuantely, since he’s considered ‘unskilled’, he’s paid low-end wage at Lowe’s.  If I can guess financially, he would have to work full-time just to take care of bare neccessities: apt rent, utilities, car, gas, insurance, internet, art supplies, and groceries/food.

(Per Month)
Apt Rent: ($400) (big city, this would be a small apt, in Rolla, pretty nice)
Utilities: variable ($75) – low end)
Gas: $30  (this is conservative)
Internet: $30
Car ($50) – this is assuming low end car, that he owns. This is maintenance
Car Insurance ($30) – very cheap, but this is for low-end car
Art supplies ($75)
Groceries/Food ($150)  – at least, unless you’re going to eat noodles and beans every night

Total: $840  — for basically food, shelter, and a car

If you total all that up, you can see how $1200 / month (I’m guessing a Lowe’s paycheck full-time would be somewhere around here) could be eaten up very quickly, and in the end, just end up spinning wheels.  He’d have some money left over.  Maybe $300~$400 / month extra, but in the end, it’d take him 5 years of working, saving every dollar he made, not spending any of it, to save up enough to live as a full-time artist for maybe 1~2 years, assuming he made no money off his art.

I’m not saying it’s impossible for someone like him, it’s just ridiculous how difficult things are for him.  But there’s more to this as well.

In fact, I don’t believe full-time work at some “job” is even an option if you are serious about pursuing something like art, or writing.  I will talk about writing in a bit, but art takes serious dedication.  Besides the ability to make the actual picture or sculpture, there’s the proper study of life and issues to make sure you’re portraying proper messages in your work. But you see, he’s busy working full-time, and a hard “job” at Lowe’s at that.  He comes home tired and stressed – do you think this helps his artwork?  Solution?  Work part-time – but as you can see, he can’t even afford the bare essentials for living on part-time wage.

All in all, I feel for Dale, and all like him.  In fact, I’m going to do everything in my power to help him (and Andrew, and all like them) out as I get some of my projects going.  If that just comes down to giving him money for no reason at all – I’m going to do it, because his work is good, and he deserves to be able to do art and not be bothered with things like Lowe’s.  What he does is valuable, regardless of what unintelligent people think.

Andrew:
Andrew’s situation is near identical to Dale’s.  Andrew is pursuing writing, and as I am a man who reads books for the majority of my time, I sincerely desire him succeed as well.  Truely good books have a value beyond all money and must be appreciated.  Unfortunately, people also tell Andrew that what he does is ‘worthless’ in many ways.  He can make money off his book, just as Dale can make money off his art, but it’s the same story – you have to get out there and market your book.  It also depends on what he writes on.  If he writes a shallow ‘self-help’ book, some dating book, or some miracle diet book – he’ll have an easier time.  Though knowing what I know about Andrew, he’s an intelligent guy, and will write what he feels is important.  He mentioned writing fiction with deep meaning behind the stories.  Andrew knows the truth about good books, as well as movies – They are only good when their authors are intellectuals.  Their authors must study deep philosophy about life and it’s problems and follies.  This kind of knowledge does not come easy, and requires hours and hours of studies of philosophy.  Also, to be a good writer of fiction, the author is going to need to know more psychology than most people ever dreamed to be able to convey realistic dialog and good characterization.  Besides this insane degree of ‘prep’ work there is all the time required to write the work itself.

Myself:
I’m basically Andrew, but with a few minor changes.  I wouldn’t mind writing fiction, but ideally my dream is to write an in-depth work on Metaphysics of the Mind.  My dream is to design an algorithm that runs on a computer that works similar to the human brain.  I’ve been working on an algorithm that can take images and ‘parse out objects’ similar to how a human mind would.  It can take a video of walking around in a kitchen and the computer would recognize it’s looking at a table and chairs and a stove, etc.  It knows a concept of space and time, and when I finish, will think think like we do.  Well, not completely, but it’d seem very intelligent.  Most AI algorithms are based on hard-coded logic based on a specific task.  The computer can’t learn and teach itself new things.  That’s ideally what I would be working on, and I mainly study philosophy of mind and psychology trying to learn how I could emulate the behavior.  I’ve come up with quite a system that I think would really do well in the philosophy community.  Unfortaunately, this kind of book wouldn’t make much money, and unless I won the Nobel Prize, or some other award with money involved, I’m also stuck doing things I don’t care about to make money.

Working on my Metaphysics of Mind seems to me the most useful application I could ever do.  I want to create robots that can build robots, with no human intervention, and these robots take care of all the tasks humans do not want to do.  Free Dale, Andrew, and myself from this garbage.  Some robot build my house and grow my food and I won’t have to bury myself in debt to live.

Society seems to tell me my passions are worthless.  I need to be writing more ‘useful’ software.  Like convoluted medical software to manage that mess.  Or financial software, or something else.  I get so mad thinking about it, I’m going to stop.

Most people say college is the answer.  Just go to college and finance it with student loans.  That’s really just a false haven – an artificial sanctuary. That works if you can get a job afterwards, but for those who end up in debt and no job afterwards, the debt becomes a serious burden and difficult to pay off.  This debt makes their life even more difficult when they need relief to work on their projects and get themselves ‘out there’ marketing their works.

If you’ve wondered why most movies are so shallow, with no plot, and no meaning, it’s because they don’t think they value people like Andrew, and don’t understand what authors go through.  The people like Andrew, who have the ability to make quality works happen, struggle to get themselves going.  Yet when a new movie comes out, and all the critics crticize how movies are so poor these days – they have only themselves to blame.

Once again, things for Andrew/Dale/myself are not impossible, just far more difficult than they should be.

So why did I bring up Kant’s quote at the beginning?  It’s because Andrew, Dale, and myself are the minority.  The system is set up by the majority, and they’ve ‘voted’ that we’re not important.  They’ve structured a selfish system around themselves which provides no way for people like us to easily make our lives happen, like they can theirs.  If you want to be a doctor, just go to college, then get a job.  Same with a lawyer, or a computer technican or programmer.  Us, we have to be a one man miracle team – we have to be our own business man, study just as hard, find a way to finance our operation, and somehow make it all work.  Nothing is handed to us.  The doctor has a system in place already.  They don’t have to market themselves.  Their medical degree is their marketing.  They get that degree, then get their job.  Not so with us.

Speaking of doctors, I didn’t even mention health and dental insurance in my above totals for Dale’s bare living needs.

Greg and I thought long and hard as to how to solve this dillemma.  The only way we’ve concluded is that a person must jump ‘in the system’, make money doing something you don’t care about – and make a LOT of money, then get back out.  It seems the only way.

Other solutions include forming some sort of community.  A group of say, 7 artists could all live together in a house and share all expenses.  This is another solution if he wishes to work part-time and work full-time on artwork.

Last solution is the one I do, is work part-time, and live at home with mom/dad.  Due to many people’s family issues, this may not be an option.

Other than these solutions, there’s no fix.  We’re the minority and the system isn’t geared towards us.

A wonderful fix would be for free college and free living while you’re going.  You can stay as long as you want and if you never want to leave, you can keep learning.  People say people would abuse this system, but I’ll tell you the truth, a person who spends his whole life studying is bound to come up with some theory on something that will change the world.  A full time intellectual/scientist is not a useless pastime.

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