Deep Thoughts Inspired by the 2015 MTV VMAs

I don’t have cable, so I was “watching” the recent Video Music Awards through commentary on Twitter and Facebook and catching up on the important bits as clips were posted to various websites. It’s funny, I don’t feel I missed much, I was just operating on a ten minute delay or so.

Afterwards, of course, the overwhelming majority of sentiment goes like this:

1. OMG, all these performers are attention whores and everything they said/did/wore was for the attention, how pathetic

2. FFS, <insert name of media outlet here>, I remember when you used to report actual news, why does anyone care about <insert name of celebrity here>?

Example: I’m so sick of that Miley Cyrus. Stop giving her attention. She’s just trying to be the next Madonna.

Madonna? Madonna who? Oh, you mean the woman who was instrumental for pushing the artistic envelope when it came to music video; who is, if not the Queen at least a duchess of the Girl Power movement; who released over a dozen albums over three decades; who sold over 300 million records (making her the best selling female musical artist of all time); who went on to star in films, write books and found her own entertainment company? Who, by the by, was criticized every damn step of the way? That Madonna? Why the hell would anyone want to try to be her?

Remember Like a Virgin at the VMAs? The original wardrobe malfunction?

I think it’s strange that we lambast the famous for craving attention, as it is the motivation that drives the creative instinct and the hustle to get it seen, and the “media” (by which I mean anyone who seeks to reach an audience beyond their friends and family) for distributing content that generates that attention.

This is what we call entertainment. It’s not a new concept.

Performers stand before us on whatever stage they choose, and we choose to pay attention to it. And far more often than not, we criticize not only their talent and their creations, but their faces, their bodies, their casual remarks, their vacation choices, their wardrobes, their partners and their children.

It’s amazing that anyone chooses to create and perform at all, let alone in a way that is mass distributed, that makes them “famous.” But for those with the music, the words, the magic within them, the idea of not sharing is to deny your spirit.

Let’s be real: to amass any sort of fame for what you’ve produced, there needs to be a healthy amount of ego. There is no such thing as a truly humble celebrity. Thankful, grateful, yes. But to keep creating things of note, you can’t act like your talent was a happy coincidence, a tangential gift. You have to own your talent. You have to think: yes, I made this, and it is good, and I can do it again.

You have to believe that what you’re putting out there is something the world absolutely wants and needs to see. You have to take energy from the other parts of your life and dedicate it to the center of your universe, your craft. And then you have to take care of the thousand and one mundane details that don’t actually directly pertain to your craft, the first and most important being promote, promote, promote.

1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.

If your ego isn’t quite up to snuff, then the act of creation is terrifying and the act of promotion is paralyzing. What was so clever, concise, innovative, important while being constructed in your mind becomes insipid and trivial once you imagine how the world will belittle and criticize.

And they will. No matter how brilliant and talented you are. No matter if they are strangers, your friends or your bedmates. It’s going to happen. It’s going to happen anyway, whether you’re just doing normal day to day things or giving birth to things of joy and consequence. It’s just a matter of degree.

Your job isn’t to cater to the masses. Your job is to put the thing into the world that only you can. Not everybody is going to like it and that’s fine.

So you may as well bask in how brilliant and talented you are while you build big, important things, and let them chatter as they must. 

There’s nothing wrong with a little ego, and a little fear. It’s far better than the alternative: to do nothing ever worth talking about.

Feel the fear— and then go ahead. Dance like everyone is watching.

facing fear

Faced with fear, we all recoil. The question is:

what do we do next?

-Ralph Keyes, The Courage to Write (affiliate link)


FWIW, I don’t care much for Miley Cyrus either. I’m old, I guess.

Refreshingly, I honestly don’t think she cares what I care.


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