Kanye West and I are similar and I know this needs an explanation so I'll get to it in a second. Everyone says a writer needs to write for one person. That one person whose approval we seek, whose love we need, whose pleasure we want to create turns into the guiding force as we drop our words after the blinking cursor. If we try to please everyone we turn out mush, so we narrow our focus to please only that one specific person. I have been thinking about this because I just finished the second full draft of my book. After the last set of edits, I gave it a read. I felt that thing artists feel after they've stepped out of their flowing creative zone and into their everyday objective zone: I had no recollection of writing any of it.
I wrote that? I think that? Is that how I do things? Is that what I believe? Those were the questions I was asking myself as I tapped the spacebar and scrolled down the page of my book's 95-page PDF. This time around I worked through the book without the critical editor's eye and with the reader's eye instead. After a chapter or two, I fell completely into the mode of reader. I was no longer the author, I was hearing my words for the first time. I was letting them affect me. I was letting them work on me. I started communing with this author. I started letting her influence me. Trippy, right?
When I got to the last word on the last page, I realized the person I've been writing for this whole time has been me. I've been writing to me. I'm the person who needs my book the most. The words I wrote are affirming, and about jumping in whole-heartedly to that thing you love, and facing what sucks and owning that, too. The words are about how to create longevity and integrity out of your artist's life. These are the things I worry about and the affirmations I shamelessly fish for from others. Sitting there with those words, I realized they weren't things I could have just said to myself, but things I needed to hear nonetheless. And I had to put them undercover in a book to be able to hear them. I had to get stealth for the words to land on me and change me.
Okay, let me get to Kanye.
When Kanye West and Paul McCartney released their song "Only One" last week, I listened to it on repeat for about two hours. Have you heard it? Kanye said that for this song he channeled his mom (who passed away a few years ago) and the song comes from her point of view. In the song, his mom tells him that "I know you're happy, cause I can see it, so tell the voice inside your head to believe it." and "No, you're not perfect, but you're not your mistakes."
This song made me swollen with feelings. Kanye wrote the song he needed to hear. He needed to hear his mom, but more than that, he needed to hear the things she used to tell him. Or the things she would be telling him now if she were still alive. Either way, Kanye needs his song. He needs to hear it. He needs to know it. And something in the song makes me think he can only actually hear those words when they're undercover.
Maybe as artists, creatives, or just flawed and flailing human beings, we need to make the things we need to see. Not the things we think our followers need, or the thing that's most commercially viable, or the thing that's been a proven success. Maybe if we own the fact that what we need to hear comes from us and through our work, maybe then we can connect the dots of the world together. Maybe we can make other people swollen with feelings. Maybe we can use our art to create presence and strength and fill ourselves up on the good shit. Maybe our art can heal. And against all the odds we face every day just to get our work out there, maybe our art can heal us, too.