Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for love, and then for a few close friends, and then for money.
I read a magazine article the other day.
(Though sometimes, I don’t even know why I pick up glossies; since 89% I will look up from their artsy pages thirsting for culottes ((And I don’t even like culottes! but they were in the Spring issue and the model wearing them was striding down some urban landscape looking all mod and confident, so…)) and wanting to try some diet that involves cantaloupe-mango shots.)
It must be the pretty pictures.
(Advertisers are the devil.)
But, my recent perusal netted me this idea for a blog post, so there’s a positive.
I was scanning through the Essence Black Women in Hollywood issue and came across Lupita Nyong’o’s gorgeousness and an accompanying full page quote. I can only paraphrase now (since I was cheap and read the magazine in the store) but it was something about how Nyong’o never worried about being famous or well-paid, she was always just looking to get lost in good, meaty acting roles.
Lupita Nyong’o is a Piscean goddess who was probably birthed from a large seashell as King Poseidon and a host of black mermaids swam by singing in falsetto.
I bet the woman can heal the sick and communicate with cats.
My name is Hannah Eko: And I sometimes make art for all the wrong reasons.
I make art to get noticed. Barely caring that it will do Good or Inspire Others.
I hope that a blog post will go viral.
I want designers to give me free clothes and hoteliers to let me stretch out in 5-Star rooms all expenses paid.
I do things for the ‘gram.
I like likes.
I sometimes pretend to be on shows getting interviewed: I am effortlessly witty and cross my legs at a perfect slant and laugh so Authentically that America calls me their Little Black Sweetheart and I become a cute little gif and co-lead a segment on Jimmy Kimmel.
If you are thinking, man, does this bitch have some grand delusions with a healthy side of narcissistic tendencies, you are not wrong.
(Stay with me please.)
Run around self-help circles enough and you will inevitably hear a guru talking about “embracing their shadow” or a workshop attendant talk about how they are “learning to love their darkness”.
These declarations are so vague you might wonder, now how does this actually look?
All I can visualize with that are solemn people meditating at sundown and nodding slowly.
But, I do agree with the sentiment.
It’s important to own up to how we are not always as kind, just, open, honest, loyal, understanding, or smart as we think we are.
So much of the sadness and pain in this world is due to people projecting their own unowned pain and confusion onto other bodies.
It’s an epic opera of I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I?
Making art in this day and age is weird.
Even if you’re not addicted to fame or attention, there is a premium on how who can produce quickest, biggest, and most.
Sometimes I want the slowness of pre-Internet, a time where you could hide for periods of time and emerge when your art was good and ready.
A time where you weren’t being notified via Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat of everyone’s accomplishments 46 times per minute and then have a mini panic attack that you weren’t producing enough.
That instead of weird trolls doxing feminists from fake Twitter accounts, these same sad lumps of banal cruelty would have to sit down, write a letter on college-ruled paper, and put that mess in an envelope they got at Staples (don’t forget the postage!)
I wish I could always outsmart and outrun the attention whorish, superficial as fuck, greedy impulses in my soul.
But this is the crux of learning to really listen and own one’s inner truth:
You start to see and own it ALL–good and bad. You start to understand that so much of what annoys you about other people is first a seedling from your own heart.
How many times have I been more than irritated at another person’s outrageous desire for Reality TV show fame? How many times have I rolled my eyes at the obvious lying that goes on a super-curated lifestyle Insta timeline?
How many times have I ignored how these same tendencies manifest with me?
Um, let’s just say: lots.
The correction isn’t further admonishment or some inner vituperation.
Mostly now, I just laugh.
Like, can I lol at the way human beings so want (or is it need?) to be seen and recognized, myself included? Can I acknowledge that I live in a culture that often rewards the veneer of an idea rather than the substance of it and how I can so easily be swayed away from what really matters to me?
Can I admit how much I love, love free swag?
The truth is, yes, I do make art for the wrong reasons.
Many a time.
Many a time,
I find my way back to the right reasons.
These reasons are connected to my values, my childhood dreams, my inner truth of wanting to leave this world a much more loving, accepting place.
So, if you’re over there wishing you were some pure-hearted producer of words or art or fairytales:
We are imperfect beings.*
Usually, when I get down to the deep, deep desire nestled within my “wrong” reason, it’s almost invariably a cry to be loved.
I am equating Adoration and Admiration with Love.
But, no matter how constant and true these words of affirmation or these numeric signals of “like” are, they are just no substitute for love.
Loving connection starts with me and expands to the family and friends and mentors and colleagues who have my best interests at heart.
Who can tell me the truth without any intent to destroy.
Who truly, truly see Me in all my mess and still choose to love.
And to whom I can too offer my love.
What do your “wrong” reasons say about what you truly thirst for? What do you fantasize about? Even if it’s stupid and MC Hammer lavish? What ways are you judging others for that which is actually yours as well?
What gaps of recognition, love, good words, and careful attention do you actually need right now?
I am asking myself these questions.
It’s a gas.
*Lupita N’yongo is kinda close to perfect, I cannot lie.