When I was a boy, one of my favorite books was H.G. Wells’ 1895 novel The Time Machine, in which an inventor from the present journeys to the far-distant future to find a world inhabited by a divided humanity, with the child-like Eloi dwelling on the surface and the Morlocks underground. It would be years before I would understand the novel’s commentary on class structure, but even at 10 or 11, I found Well’s idea of moving through time compelling.
(I still do!)
Since then, my only time travel has been 60 years forward, one day at a time; I have yet to make the leaps of Well’s protagonist. But recently, Dan Blask from the Massachusetts Cultural Council gave me an opportunity to do the next best thing. He posed to me, along with several other recipients of the council’s Fellowships in the Arts, the following question: If you could deliver one message to yourself as a younger artist, what would it be?
“There are several messages I wish I could transmit to my younger artist self, but if I must choose only one, it’s: ‘Trust! Trust! Trust!” Trust yourself, trust your work, and trust that if you persist, it will find its way into the world.
“Had I received this message then, the arc of my artistic life may been quite different than it turned out to be. From 1975-1979, I roamed the streets and subways of New York with two cameras, a tape recorder, and a steno pad. By 1977 I’d put together enough material for a book proposal, which I circulated to many New York publishers. After three close brushes with publication and numerous rejections, discouraged, I set the book aside. Today, I would have thought, ‘Look how close you came! Keep going.’ Then, absent this wisdom, I left New York and moved to Boston, where I eventually became a psychotherapist.
“Though I abandoned these images and stories, they never abandoned me. This past year, I scanned thousands of images, completed unfinished stories, and published Street People: Invisible New York Made Visible. That young artist, grateful I finally had his back, messaged me, ‘Better late than never.’”
The article, which also contains answers by five other artists, is here: Message to Yourself as a Younger Artist
If you could deliver one message to your younger self, what would it be?
Copyright 2022, David J. Bookbinder
Street People: Invisible New York Made Visible
Street People Portfolio: Invisible New York Made Visual
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Mastering the Art of Balance: Stay Sane in an Insane World
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