Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

if at first and all that

Yesterday I listened to National Public Radio's weekend morning show, which featured an interview with Polly Jean Harvey. I don't own any of her CDs, but I've always thought she's one of those on the side of the angels. I liked the way that she came across as so very down to earth for a singer who is not always lyrically down to earth. On a less idea-oriented level, I also liked her quiet Dorset accent.

The part of the interview that struck me was the tale of her first gig, at a skittles alley. When her group began to play, the place had dozens of patrons. Soon after they got in full swing, the place had emptied out to just two folks. Finally, someone came up to her and said "Don't you understand? They don't like you!". The club promised to pay the band, but advised the musicians that they could safely stop now, having dispersed the customer base.

Ms. Harvey reported that although this was a discouraging first performance, she determined to persevere.
The result, of course, is that she has created a body of work both individual and compelling. I think, sometimes, of all the various folks I've known, both creative and non-creative, who encounter roadblocks
to their chosen work. No matter how trite or truistic it may be, there must be some virtue in knowing what you are aiming for, and aiming for it in the face of opposition.

I think that part of the secret is to develop an attachment to the work itself, and not to the income or recognition one is to get for the work. That's not to say that money and attention don't matter--I think they matter. But I think that a sense of vision and purpose are the real things that matter--the sense of having created a body of work, of having lived at the vital part of what one is to do. It needn't all be so darned serious. I often think that many of us miss the point that our chosen work is inherently comic, and keep re-filming Interiors when we should be filming Broadway Danny Rose. We've all known, of course, folks who try to do things earnestly at which they just have no gift. But I think that striving in a good cause has its own virtues, too.

I like stories like Ms. Harvey's, which remind me to assess not how much acclaim I've gotten, but how worthy I may find my goals. I think that defining worth solely in terms of money or adulation is a narrow definition indeed.
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