A Portrait of Faulkner's Artist

I recently penned a piece for the Wordsworthing Newsie (Issue 7, which if you missed please refer to the note at this link about no back-issues and then sign the fuck up) about a rejection letter I received this year.  To summarize, the letter rejected a non-fiction piece I wrote involving my parenting skills.  I initially took the letter as a rejection of my parenting skills.  It was only later that I digested the happenings and realized that it was my written word that was rejected and not my parenting.  I had not done the work with regard to the piece and had received the requisite sack-smack.

In light of recent Wordsworthing events, it seems this information may need to be less personalized, not just in the Newsie, and cover the broader topic of rejection and Art in general.  What recent events, you might be asking?  Please see the two pictures below.  One is the front side and the other is the backside.


The above postcard (?) was received by me, at my house, in my personal mailbox.  No return address.  Just one envelope containing this solo bad-boy.  But based on timing and some other information I won’t mention, I believe that I have identified who sent this and why (also, maybe I didn’t identify him or her because it’s just a guess, but the rest of this blog is still germane).  Who did this is irrelevant.  Why it was done, that is relevant to this expedition we have chosen called writing.  This was sent, I believe, in response to a rejection letter that I penned for Wordsworthing Literary Magazine.

Fact:  Lowercase art is a selfish endeavor, it is an act of the ego or for commercialization (See:  commerce and survival (self-description by Elmore Leonard); See:  Dan Brown; See:  Miley Fucking Cyrus); capital A Art is selfless.  If, at any point, you writers out there think you’re Artists, understand you are not.  Note:  Neither is anyone at Wordsworthing.  True Artists never actually arrive.  They strive, continually.  This is understood, completely, by the Artist.  To that end, and because I think we all need a kick in the dick as a refresher on Art from time to time (or vagina; it’s just a saying and I’m not obliviously being sexist; also kick in the dick rhymes whereas vagina, not so much; cunt punt, on the other hand…I digress), I’m including—in its entirety—William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech, as it were.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I feel that this award was not made to me as a man, but to my work - a life's work in the agony and sweat of the human spirit, not for glory and least of all for profit, but to create out of the materials of the human spirit something which did not exist before. So this award is only mine in trust. It will not be difficult to find a dedication for the money part of it commensurate with the purpose and significance of its origin. But I would like to do the same with the acclaim too, by using this moment as a pinnacle from which I might be listened to by the young men and women already dedicated to the same anguish and travail, among whom is already that one who will some day stand here where I am standing.

Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.

He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed - love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, of victories without hope and, worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.

Until he relearns these things, he will write as though he stood among and watched the end of man. I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last dingdong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking.

I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet's, the writer's, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.

William Faulkner, December 5th, 1950

[“William Faulkner - Banquet Speech". Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 27 Nov 2017. http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1949/faulkner-speech.html]

Read.  Reread.  This man won the highest honor in literature and his speech is about the work and not himself.  That’s because he deeply understood Art.  He understood the work.  The strife.  The grind.  See this excerpt from his interview with (shudder) The Paris Review:

All of us failed to match our dream of perfection. So I rate us on the basis of our splendid failure to do the impossible. In my opinion, if I could write all my work again, I am convinced that I would do it better, which is the healthiest condition for an artist. That's why he keeps on working, trying again; he believes each time that this time he will do it, bring it off. Of course he won't, which is why this condition is healthy. Once he did it, once he matched the work to the image, the dream, nothing would remain but to cut his throat, jump off the other side of that pinnacle of perfection into suicide.

He understood that one does not tie one’s ego to the work so much as one ties one’s enduring fucking fortitude to the work.  The endless pursuit of perfection of the work.  And by virtue, to best oneself with the work.  And Faulkner understood what rejection was to the writer in this relationship:  A call to action.  What action?  Write fucking harder.  The only personal criticism that should be assumed when you receive a rejection letter is that you didn’t do your story justice by writing it better.  That you failed in your craft.  What the story is or was about, fiction/poetry/non-fiction, doesn’t fucking matter.  It doesn’t matter because you didn’t work hard enough on your job, WHICH IS THE GODDAMN CREATOR OF THE WORK, to impress upon us why it should matter. 

Imagine Art as a god.  You must give yourself, all of yourself, to the god.  Everything you have must be thrown at its feet.  Throw your goddamn self, both form and soul, at its feet.  Throw that worthless ego in.  It is only then that Art becomes a selfless pursuit and you can see past yourself to the truth and beauty around you.  Then you might be able to record it and become an Artist. 

By Castmate Nick