“I haven’t finished yet, I still have a tattoo to get that says ‘I’m living in the moment.'”

Warning: long. This is what I’m talking about when I say the queue is full of rambles, and why I often just post stuff like ‘Beer good. Telly good. Link to thing.’ If I had my way I’d probably revise this for another couple hours, but I have Other Things I have to write, so #HITPOSTNOW

So Amanda Palmer posted about reading really negative feedback of her new stuff. Her post brought to the forefront something I usually feel twitching at the back of my brain when I hear people express a negative opinion of an artist’s current work in relation to their older stuff.

I first heard Amanda’s music when I downloaded Who Killed Amanda Palmer, which I did because I read about it on the internet following mention on Neil Gaiman’s blog that he was writing stories about the songs. I also at this time developed a creepy suspicion that they were or would be An Item, which I eventually shared with my sister, and we started an email thread entitled Evidence That Neil Gaiman And Amanda Palmer Are Banging, or something inappropriate like that, and it turned out that we were totally right, but that’s beside the point. It’s worth mentioning that years before, I first read Neil Gaiman when I found Stardust on the shelf at the library where I worked, and someone who saw me reading it in the breakroom said to me, “Did you know he writes comics too?” (This person stuck The Wake and Season of Mists in my locker, and I read The Wake first, which just feeds into the loop of Discovering Something Backwards.)

Both these artists had a previous body of work, and consequently they both had disgruntled fan bases who wished they had stuck to a certain Big Thing they’d done before. I immediately ran into people who wanted Neil to continue to write comics, and people who wanted Amanda to go back to the type of music she’d done with the Dresden Dolls.

This is always the case, with EVERY fanbase I’ve ever investigated.

There are fans of Joss Whedon so resolutely loyal to Buffy they missed out on Angel, and so attached to Angel, they avoided Firefly. (Where do you even start?)

There are fans of Jasper Fforde who wish he would only write Thursday Next novels. (Shades of Grey is amazing.)

There are fans of William Gibson who wish he’d go back to overt sci-fi. (Pattern Recognition is the first book I read by Gibson, and it remains my favorite.)

People react intensely when a long story comes to an end, such as Harry Potter. They say the weirdest things. They vow not even to read the author’s next work if it doesn’t contain their favorite characters. They quit reading when certain characters die, even though the story isn’t over. I suppose as an author you have to keep a clear head and take from this sort of reaction that at least you influenced someone that strongly, although if you’re JK Rowling maybe you just buy another castle and reflect on your awesomeness.

When The Beekeeper came out, I had Tori Amos fans tell me they were sad that her new work wasn’t, they felt, ‘as angry.’ Same, that year, for U2 with How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. In these instances, some of the fans were older. I remember feeling sad that they were still angry and they wanted an artist to still be angry, but I find anger to be a weirdly discomfiting place to be on the emotional spectrum, while I imagine that for other people, it feels like home, so that’s fair.

The thing people seem to expect from music, or maybe this is just me, is shared emotion. They feel as if they’re in tune with something when they listen to the music, and often they assume that what they’re in tune with is the musician. Maybe that’s exactly how music works. Maybe you get to step into the same place of ALL THE FEELINGS together, and that experience is so intimate, it’s hard for people to let go when the artist steps to the next space. On the flipside, maybe sometimes you step out of a space, and so does a musician. I still haven’t heard Tori’s latest album, as it happens, and U2’s last did nothing for me, even with multiple listens. You have relationships with art, and then the person making the art moves on, and so do you. And it can feel a little cold and weird when it’s over.

But you will find something new that matters to you just as hard, and you can also know for certain that somewhere out there someone else is being deeply affected by the art that failed to move you.

It comes down to this: I trust the author. Or musician. Or painter. Or inker. Or chalk-message-leaver. Whatever your choice of media to convey your message, if I made a genuine connection with your art in the past, I’ll give your current work serious consideration. If it doesn’t move me, maybe the next thing you make will.

We’re all entitled to respond exactly as we want to, when it comes to art. That’s the point. Feelings are completely valid. However, being human is about changing while remaining a constant – maintaining a self while evolving. (This would be a good point to note that I say an awful lot of shit to myself when I’m thinking. Being human is also about enjoying a good cup of coffee, going to the Moon, knowing someone loves you, killing another human being, or taking an interest in antique teaspoons to unprecedented heights.)

HOWEVER: I think you miss something when you dismiss someone’s new work because it isn’t like the old work. I think you miss for one thing, the chance all art gives us to seize a little bit more life as we go, life we wouldn’t have otherwise. To experience being only one person is a narrow limitation, and art, if I’m going to go there and apparently I am, gives us a way to be other people and also be ourselves, to layer the filters and put some complications in. You get to step outside yourself and come back, and that, while disorienting, cannot be overvalued. I’m in the business of looking for ways to live more and longer, having put my bid in for immortality or at least ridiculous longevity, and art gives me the most life for the time I spend.

Sometimes you also get to step into yourself. It took me several weeks to actually listen to Amanda’s newer song, In My Mind, because I started crying when I read the lyrics she’d posted on her blog. Then I got to hear her play it live at #OccupySeattle and I cried again, standing with friends in the rain and the cold. There’s not a line in that song I don’t feel to my core. Lucky me, that Amanda happened to write it, just now when I most need it.

in my mind
in a future five years from now
i’m 120 pounds
and i never get hungover
because i will be the picture of discipline
never minding what state i’m in
and i will be someone i admire
and it’s funny how i imagined that i would be that person now
but it does not seem to have happened
maybe i’ve just forgotten how to see
that i’m not exactly the person that i thought i’d be

and in my mind
in the faraway here and now
i’ve become in control somehow
and i never lose my wallet
because i will be the picture of discipline
never fucking up anything
and i’ll be a good defensive driver
and it’s funny how i imagined that i would be that person now
but it does not seem to have happened
maybe i’ve just forgotten how to see
that i’ll never be the person that i thought i’d be

and in my mind
when i’m old, i am beautiful
planting tulips and vegetables
which i will mindfully watch over
not like me, now
i’m so busy with everything
that i don’t look at anything
but i’m sure i’ll look when i am older
and it’s funny how i imagine that i could be that person now
but that’s not what i want, if that’s what i wanted then i’d be giving up somehow
how strange to see that i don’t want to be the person that i want to be

and in my mind
i imagine so many things
things that aren’t really happening
and when they put me in the ground, i’ll start pounding the lid
saying “i haven’t finished yet –
i still have a tattoo to get
that says ‘i’m living in the moment’.”
and it’s funny how i imagined that i could win this winless fight
but maybe it isn’t all that funny that i’ve been fighting all my life
but maybe i have to think it’s funny if i wanna live before i die
and maybe it’s funniest of all to think i’ll die before i actually see
that i am exactly the person that i want to be

fuck yes
i am exactly the person that i want to be