Psychic Karate Novels by Ryan O'Laughlin

Psychic Karate Novels by Ryan O'Laughlin
Psychic Karate Novels by Ryan O'Laughlin

Friday, August 7, 2020

Open letter to creatives staring down the barrel of 2020.

Hi. Name's Ryan. I like to do twisted drawings and write insane stories. Then, I like to put the aforementioned drawings in the aforementioned stories and sell them. For money. 

But that's not the important thing to know about me. You see, I'm guided by a belief and while I don't know who needs to hear this now or in the future, my intention is to convey that belief. Take it as a rallying cry, a motivational speech or even an idiosyncratic rant, just please understand this is being done in good faith. 

You see, I was born within a family of artists. Commercial artists, fine artists, artisans of several, noteworthy types. Though perhaps most noteworthy was my own father, who was an art teacher. This allowed me to dabble and experiment at an early and critical age. Surrounded by "talent" (more on that later), I had a unique and intimate perspective on the lives of creative people trying to make the ends meet by abiding in that creative word. And while I can perhaps be a little overly empathetic, what that viewpoint conveyed to me was a unique sense of suffering. To watch a person you know and love develop something truly brilliant while the outside world responds in apathy, tuned into the next commercial for a product they don't need... it's a special kind of pain, isn't it? This statement here is for those who understand that pain. 

Of course, I'm here to talk about our current, semi-permanent stay-cation. We knew the tunnel would be long and dark, but it keeps getting longer, doesn't it? Darker still as our leaders fail to offer the support needed to continue that stay-cation. Darker still as I'm not just talking about one of our leaders. No, all of them. We're on our own. 

In high school, I worked in a comic book store. The owner had an interesting business philosophy, believing that he was competing against business owners that ran comic shops not because they were good at business matters, but because they had no other choice. These people (I've known so many of them) know very little about sales or building a business, but they found a way to put themselves in a position where they could just talk about comic books ALL DAY. It doesn't matter to them if they take home less than minimum wage; they love the world of comics so much, that to be immersed is simply good enough. Well, if you had a strategy to compete against a business built on that kind of principle, you were bound to dominate. Yet, secretly, I always envied the enemy without knowing why. 

We creative types, we're a particular kind of animal. Eventually, we wind up doing what we do because there's simply no other choice. We have to be immersed. Shoot, I've become that guy. I don't do what I do to "win." Anyone who reads my stuff knows full well you'll never see me do a book signing at a corporate bookstore. Oprah's never going to tell you to read the next book I'm finishing (Oprah's awesome, though). Reese Witherspoon is never going to put my last book on that list thing she does ("Freeway" is one of my all-time favorite movies, though). I don't do what I do to be mainstream or to be rich and fancy. No, I'm slowly and surely becoming that lonely slob of a dude running that comic store that's doomed to fail in the end. 

Think Jack Black's character from High Fidelity. Think Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons. Think back to every metal concert you've ever been to. Just beyond the edge of the mosh pit, it's always the same guy. Dumpy, black t-shirt advertising some other band's show from a decade back, complete absence of the concept of a haircut, standing there alone, eyes glassy as he nods in mouth-breathing, trance-like synchronicity to the riffing coming from the stage. 

As I said before, I'm guided by a philosophy. And my philosophy is that guy is the coolest human being on the surface of the planet. 

So, if you're a part of the normative herd, you may be reaching the conclusion that I have some novel form of unclassified mental illness. But, if you're like me, you know different. So many of us do what we do because there's simply no acceptable alternative. Maybe it's music or poetry. Painting, sports, horticulture; it doesn't matter what it is. It's all the same. It's ART. The real deal, no additives. We know the secret code; "talent" is merely intellectual shorthand for hard, unpaid work. Work marinated in the pain of nobody being around to care. The painful kind of work very few of us can sustain for very long without breaking down. The stubborn refusal to submit to the breakdown... that's what talent is.

Some of us are in the middle of a horrible ass-kicking. Some of us see it coming. Me, I'm largely okay; acting a damn hermit plays to my strengths. But this message is for those who are in this moment facing The Doubt. If you know what I mean, then you know who you are. Pulling the 40-hour lever and staying alive simply can't be enough to continue. With the audience gone and the show cancelled and the next big release delayed indefinitely and the legal and financial support evaporating... why would any of us want to be "that guy?" 

I'm here now, in this moment, to remind you why. Because you're too damn cool to stop, that's why. No matter how far you've leveled up your art game and no matter how dark the tunnel gets, no matter how far away the reward and the relief seems now, the next level's about to happen. And as the history book flips to the next chapter, those who stepped up to the plate and dared to contribute to the new aesthetic will be remembered as the vanguard of a new age of badasses. 

Granted... broke, nerdy, misunderstood and doomed badasses, to be sure... but badasses nonetheless. 

Now get back to work.