This is a guest post by Josh Hanagarne, World’s Strongest Librarian
When Daryle invited me to guest post, I did the only natural thing—I called a sanatorium and told them that dear D. had lost his judgment and needed to come over for a nice rest. You see, I know nothing about art and less about making money off of it. Give me a kettlebell to swing and a 200-pound stone to jog around with and I’m happy enough.
Then I assumed it was just some sick performance piece by the deranged master Dickens. What if we got a lovable loser on an art blog and got him to talk about art?
But the more I thought about Daryle’s offer, I realized he might be onto something. Maybe I’m a little more artsy than I thought. I’ll let you judge. Either way, it won’t change my plans because I don’t make plans.
I’ll be talking about some of the other, unusual benefits art has provided me with—like a cure for Tourette’s Syndrome and a baffling contract with a literary agency that still has wet ink on it.
Defining terms…or not
When I think of art, I usually think of fancy people and oil paintings and pretension and this piece of rope I saw on the wall at the Museum of Modern Art. It was called “Rope On Wall.”
Those thoughts are on me. I’m not saying they’re fair, but that doesn’t make them less real in my little mind.
The only person I’ve ever known who actually referred to himself as an artist once referred to zombies as “vegetative non-life commodities.” We were not close.
That one’s on him. He was ridiculous and too in love with his own cleverness and he wore fingerless gloves in the middle of July because he was such an artist.
He also hunted ghosts, but I’ll stop there.
Quick Background on Tourette’s
Hollywood teaches you that Tourette’s Syndrome makes people scream obscenities uncontrollably. Sadly, when I lose control of myself and scream obscenities, I can’t blame it on Tourette’s.
If you’re curious about what me or my tics look like, you can see some mild ones in this video from my series “How To Have Tourette’s.”
Yes, that’s mild.
I used to scream so hard, so often that my intestines made a rush for the doors and pushed through my abdominal wall.
That hernia led me to get a series of delightful botulism injections in my vocal cords. Every five weeks for three years I trekked up to the University Hospital so a joyless man could jab needles through my windpipe. I was too lazy to learn the science of it all, but the botox paralyzed my vocal cords so I couldn’t scream anymore. No more screaming, no more hernias.
No more voice, no more talking. Lame.
That’s enough to tell the story for now. If you’re curious, please check out How To Have Tourette’s on World’s Strongest Librarian.
The art of distraction: The Predator
My parents were wonderful about encouraging our hobbies. For me that meant books and music. When I was 16 my dad took me to a guitar shop and we brought home a cheap Peavey Predator and an amp.
My tics weren’t bad yet, but they were getting irritating and causing me some social problems.
Wonder of wonders, I soon realized that as long as I was playing that guitar, there wasn’t enough room in my head for my symptoms. So it became a vacation to practice for hours every day. If you try to sit me with for five minutes these days, I couldn’t be still or quiet to save my life. But if I was playing the guitar for you, we could go for ten hours and I’d never need to tell you I have Tourette’s.
It didn’t hurt that I loved music and wanted to practice anyways.
I was a social person and couldn’t stand not being able to communicate. Guitar helped with this in some ways, but I was more interested in playing Nirvana songs and showing off for girls than expressing myself.
One day after I had nearly jabbed my eye out during a bout of tics, my mom said, “You’re going to have some weird stories one day. You should write this all down.”
I started keeping a journal. Writing turned out to be a very healthy, enjoyable process for me. Soon, it was something I needed as part of the day—I wouldn’t have felt any better about going to bed without writing than I would have about going to bed without brushing my teeth.
Later on when my symptoms were more manageable, I found that I needed the writing for different reasons. It was part of me. I realized that I often didn’t know what I thought about things until I wrote them down and looked at them.
Out of that love of stories and writing came World’s Strongest Librarian. Oh, I should probably mention that I am also a librarian, and a strong one. My other passion is increasingly extreme strength training, but I’ll save that story for a day when I can figure out how to make money off of being a savage who can tear decks of cards in half.
The blog explodes for reasons I don’t entirely understand
Bear in mind that even two weeks ago, I didn’t view anything I did as artistic. Not the writing, the music…none of it.
I was forced to change that when I woke up to an email from a very, very famous blogger. I’m paraphrasing, but this was the message:
“Your blog caught my eye. There’s a book in it. I’m copying my agent on this.”
That agent and I exchanged emails all day. Two days after that I signed contracts to be represented by that agent and her literary agency. We’re finishing up a book proposal right now for a memoir titled The World’s Strongest Librarian. If it sells, it will be about Tourette’s, books, et cetera. The sorts of things I write about on my unfocused, non-artistic blog.
This is exciting, of course, but it is also bewildering. I didn’t chase this and you can’t plan this sort of stuff. And now suddenly people are treating me like I know something. But I haven’t changed course or done things differently. I know that’s true because I never plotted a course. I decided to do something I loved and that was about as much thought as I gave it.
Is that art? Some people have suggested that I’m “true to myself,” but it just feels like the terror of boredom to me.
Despite knowing zero about money and less about business, I was recently interviewed on a podcast called Internet Business Path. It was a lot of fun. The program is for Internet entrepreneurs. When I was asked about my plans, I just said, “I’ll do whatever I have to stay entertained.”
People are now asking me if I will mentor them. Good grief, mentor them in what? I have no idea how to mentor anyone in anything, except maybe eating donuts.
But something about this story is lending me a credibility that I don’t have. I don’t have it, right?
People are drawn to the artistic
Maybe that’s my clumsy way of looking at art. I believe we each have an innate need to create. Creating something that didn’t exist before you is artistic. Maybe it sucks. Maybe nobody likes it. Maybe you don’t like it, but you made a mark.
But most people don’t pursue creativity. That’s why I believe they’re drawn towards people they perceive as being more artistic than they are—it jogs their memory and reminds them of what was intended: that we can all create.
Call it whatever you like. I’m not in the habit of giving advice. You’re talking to a guy who’s been trying to jump into his pants on a dare that has lasted for years now. I’ll get it one day and then I’ll start doing one leg at a time like a sane person. But if I was in the habit of giving advice, I might say something like this:
In terms of art, whatever you do, do it for yourself first. If other people like it, that’s a bonus. They’re more likely to respond to your art if they can tell you had a blast creating it.
If nobody likes it but you, that doesn’t mean it was wasted time.
Josh Hanagarne twitchy genius, is the World’s Strongest Librarian If you are interested in kettlebells, coping with Tourette’s Syndrome, buying pants when you’re very tall, guitars, you need a muscular shoulder to cry on, or you need an example of a truly unfocused (but successful) blog, he’s your man. Please sign up for Josh’s RSS Updates to stay in touch.