Self-censorship: the inner voice and the artist in society

December 7th, 2004 § 0 |

John Cassavetes on creativity:

you have to fight every day to stop censoring yourself. and you never have anyone else to blame when you do. what happens to artists is that it’s not that somebody’s standing in their way, it’s that their own selves are standing in their way. the compromise really isn’t how or what you do, the techniques you use, or even the content, but really the compromise is beginning to feel a lack of confidence in your innermost thoughts. and if you don’t put these innermost thoughts on the screen then you are looking down on not only your audience but the people you work with, and that’s what makes so many people working out there unhappy. these innermost thoughts become less and less a part of you and once you lose them then you don’t have anything else.

Internal censorship. The deadliest kind. I catch my self at it every day. Making the thing as we wish. In my case, it would probably be a lot more licentious and funny and a lot less serious. Decadent as it were.

Just be oneself, is the contemporary mantra. An impossibility. The civilised man or woman is never him or herself, but a projection of a conceptualised self. Ask someone about their sexual fantasies. Expect a real answer. Usually not.

The conceptualisation of self can happen at a higher or lower level depending on self-awareness and sense of society’s own filters and behavioural models.

So how much of that interior world do we share with others, how much of it do we allow to flow through ourselves? Ultimately, that may be the question that Cassavates may be asking. Something to note is the difficulty many great artists have with socialisation.

To take some a surprising and Christian one, Soren Kierkegard – despite private fortune and connections – was a terrible social anomoly and unable to live a normal sentimental life. Lev Tolstoi was a total outrage until his great fame, running around mowing fields with peasants and running crackpot peasant literacy programs. And that’s not to discuss, individuals like French poet Rimbaud who stopped writing at 19 to adventure through Africa, followed later by the articulate and dangeourous prince of clouds, Céline. (At least unlike Rimbaud, Céline managed to come back on his own two feet and not in a box.)

On the other hand, there are men like Henri de Stendhal and Pierre de Ronsard who lived civilised and mondain lives as diplomats, while beginning the oeuvre which will live on forever.

These latter two are an argument to make the battleground internal. Not external.

Compromise with the forms and appearances of society and make war on its corruption and hypocrisy from within.

But how then not to mute the internal voice under the damping of convention?

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