A scene from Daniel Clowes and Terry Zwigoff's very funny and perceptive Art School Confidential:
AUDREY: What do you want to do?
JEROME: I want to be the greatest artist of the 21st century.
AUDREY: No, I meant, what do you want to do right now.
I laughed, of course, because the film expertly mocks artists, students, teachers, art patrons, failures, successes, and pretty much anything in its line of vision—but Jerome's bold declaration struck a nerve with me both times I saw the movie because I deal in bold declarations on a regular basis. (See? That was a bold declaration right there!)
Last year I got a call from someone high up at a major regional theater. She asked me if I was interested in flying to her city and spending some time developing a new play.
PRINCE: I don't know. I'm in a weird place with playwriting, and I'm sort of reevaluating my relationship to the theater right now.
WOMAN: How so?
PRINCE: I feel like I don't want to write anything right now until I know I'm ready. I feel like my next play needs to be the best play ever written in the history of humankind. Otherwise, what's the point?
Dear readers, you know me well, so you know that I was both shamelessly self-mocking and dead serious. It's a curse to believe in your own genius while simultaneously denying it.
By the silence on the other end of the line, I knew that the woman thought I was only meant to be taken very seriously. But despite the fact that she wanted to laugh in derision, she decided to treat me like an artist-in-crisis who needed to be talked down from a suicide attempt. She immediately started speculating why I would feel the way I claimed and attempted to counsel me in order to bring me to a place where I better understood myself.
I never flew to the theater and I haven't really worked on a play for more than a year—but between my blog, my Peabody-worthy analyses of the High School Musicals, and the artistry that goes into my facial skin care regimen, I may just be the greatest artist of the 21st century anyway. But, honestly, that's not really for anyone to decide except for me, is it?