Dark Matter

 
I woke up today in a bad mood. Sundays are always a little dark for me; a lifetime of the day before the school week/church in the mornings/early bed time/weekend is over cannot be easily shaken off, even if those things are 20 years or more in the past. But this morning was a little more than the usual. I am a week past the debacle of last Saturday's disastrous and expensive photo shoot that yielded nothing, and though I am over the intense feelings of failure and embarrassment, there is a lingering sense of futility about the whole endeavor - the whole pursuit of art seems pointless at the moment. My own personal history tells me that this is temporary and expected, but nonetheless, I feel it is all over. Waking up to mornings like this one does not help.
 
Let me explain…
 
While I certainly don't object to the concept of self-help, I do find the whole "self-help movement" laughable and worthy of derision. A whole section in a book store, motivational speakers, life coaches? Come on!  Only the very weak-minded could buy into this snake oil salesman routine and find something to believe in. No, I do believe in the concept of believing in and helping yourself, but reading the pablum of Tony Robbins is not going to help, and chanting mantras is about as effective as a placebo. All this to say, there needs to be some call and response here, a little back and forth. If I am to be the broadcaster of my life, there needs to be an audience, and an audience reaction, else I am nothing but drifting messages with no recipient. The universe and I are having a conversation, but the universe is not doing any of the work, it seems. I am supposed to supply the questions as well as my own answers? This of course is some grand hyperbole - I do speak in hyperbole, always have. But the kernel of truth here is this: I am butting my head against a wall, and not making a dent. Classic plight of the artist, and cliche, I suppose. Don't care. It's true enough to me.
 
This morning I awoke to: an acquaintance of mine sold something on FineArtAmerica.com. An acquaintance of mine sold an image to a book publisher and said image is now on a novel, through ArcAngel Images. An acquaintance of mine on Flickr was sent a message by someone asking if they could use her image in a magazine. I am on all these sites, I have been trying on all these sites for longer than these acquaintances. I have made less progress, it seems, than they have, in terms of getting exposure. Case in point: my photography page on Facebook. After one year, I am not even at 200 "fans." Despite being a finalist and winner in Canon's Project Imagination recently, despite recent press I've gotten, I am presently at 197. A fellow winner started his Facebook photography page in the last week or so, and has already bested me in terms of fans. And this is after I started a daily paid promotion on Facebook last week.
 
My local hometown newspaper, which contacted me and did a little interview piece with me two weeks ago about the Canon win, never bothered to run the piece. I got three pieces of press from that competition, and the results of all of it are a resounding NOTHING.  Not one new LIKE to the Facebook page, no increase in visibility. And adding to the news of all the small successes of my contemporaries, I wake up to my Facebook fans count down by one - someone actually defected overnight! With numbers as low as mine, that one is very noticeable. I have sent my samples to two galleries and two magazines recently and have gotten no response, not even a form letter rejection.
 
You could look at all this complaining as counter-productive. I can see how you could. But I disagree. This is a form of purging, or self-help. It is also honesty - free of positive-speak slogans and mantras of sugary earnestness. I do not believe that if you put positive out into the world it comes back to you. Honestly, if you know anything of human history, how can anyone believe that? But I am putting something out into the void; that's the rub. I am putting myself out there as much as I can, and no one is terribly interested in it. When you have beaten yourself up for a week after a failed concept shoot, and agonize over keeping your work fresh and meaningful, this kind of galactic indifference is really a backhand to the head.
 
I know the value of persistence. Of not giving up, and plugging away. I also know that if I give it all up, I would essentially be dead. The pursuit of art is something that's been central to my identity since I was very young. There has never been a time when I wasn't expressing myself in drawing, music, or now, photography. But after witnessing some forty years, I am no further along in terms of success, recognition, or even having an audience to speak of. Yes, the numbers are growing a little, but they are small in contrast to others, they are meaningless in terms of an audience, and there seems to be nothing I can do to expand it. I have tried everything I can think of.
 
It may just be, finally, that the universe is telling me I am just not good enough.
 
Is that a cosmic joke? To doggedly pursue something for all these years, apparently from a place of self-confidence or hubris, only to find your snake oil is not wanted by the general public?  Or the online community? Or the art world? Or half your friends on Facebook?
 
I can lift myself up over and over, and convince myself again and again that I am worthy, that I do good work, that I believe in myself. But there has to be some back and forth here, universe. I cannot keep putting coins in the existential vending machine and keep pulling the lever, and not get my candy bar. I am not weatherproof. Is anyone, really?
 
This spiral, this widening gyre of negativity, as counter-productive and off-putting as it may seem to some, is not for its own sake. Or even coming from a place of self-pitying angst. If anything, I am angry. I am not crying, I am spitting. You see, I did try to find something constructive to do in the wake of last week's failure, I did try to channel some energy elsewhere and reboot. I focused on self-promotion, of expanding my previous work and getting it noticed. And it really is being met with indifference and disinterest. So, when plan A fails, and plan B fails, is there any juice left in the tank to go a few more miles? I hate to end this year on a sour note, and maybe I can pull the nose up before I crash and burn, but the net result of all this apathy and futility is a crippling sense of defeat. I have nothing planned on the horizon, no new images to work on, and nothing to chase after. I am drained of motivation and ideas. The very idea of picking up a camera again is terrifying.
 
There are a lot of blogs out there from people who do what I do that only speak of "inspiration" and "imagination" and actually claim to be in existence for the benefit of others - to inspire and help others. This to me is another form of what i like to call "posi-speak." It's all flowers and sunshine and good will towards man. It seems they are afraid of confronting the dark lest they be branded a pessimist or be perceived as anything other than celestial light. Honestly, is that really helping anyone? What are you selling? Why are you trying so hard to be a force of "goodness" and light? Do you think if you deviate into despair that the universe will punish you somehow? Trust me, the universe on the whole does not give one shit about which way your wind blows, and on the off chance my little broadcasts get picked up by someone out there, I would at least like to be branded as someone who is honest about his experiences, who is not afraid of the dark matter, and recognizes that pain and misery are valid emotions too, and need not be left on the cutting room floor in favor of your high-maintenance public persona. Artifice is not what I am selling. If it is too hard to look at, then please, look away.
 
Incidentally, last week's dark chapter in my blog was my most-viewed to date. Interesting.