Every weekday, in blustery, rainy, ocean-brined Brighton, a man leaves his house with everyday purpose. He gets into a black sedan, and, wipers on, drives a few kilometers to an anonymous office park, in a strip of anonymous businesses crawling with the detritus of laypeople. He gets out of his car, and goes inside for 8 hours.
At 5pm or so, he emerges, looking worked, a little fatigued, furrowed brow set over sunglasses, and gets back into the sedan. He drives home in time for dinner with his twin sons and wife.
That man is Nick Cave.
Cave is an Australian ex-pat songwriter best known for his explosively dramatic turns fronting, first, the post-punk outfit The Birthday Party (who made everyday nihilists look like patsies), and afterwards, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds (brooding, literate rockists) and Grinderman (the penultimate sideshow id act). Yeah, a rock star. Who goes to the office.
It's not that I didn't know that artistic output takes work. I understand. I've watched close friends labor of musical works of love for years. I've watched Amelia painstakingly sew hand-cut banners for a staged photo series. Art equals work.
Cave had a "documentary" (the beautifully shot 20,000 Days On Earth) that came out this year, that he scripted himself. Regardless of how much of the movie was "real" (the script dealt constantly with the push-pull relationship between self and self-creation) – there were some bits that really hit home.
After footage of the Bad Seeds at work in the studio, playing the repetitive, building, cut-off future-blues of "Higgs Boson Blues" – Cave opined about his songwriting process, saying, "You take two things, two ideas, and smash them together. When you see sparks, you follow them."
[That's what I got out of the quote, at least.]
Wow – though it may be a reductionist view of the artistic process, I prefer to hear it as empowering. Inside our double-helixes, we're all cavemen, smashing anything at hand together to produce work, art, life. We have our caves, and we chase everything except an alive dinner (well, some of us chase that, too). We dig through air, land, and water for glittery stuff (or its paper representative).
We all have the same chance to create. Don't take it for granted – pick something up. Now pick something else up. Start smashing. Make art.