What makes this text so fruitful is it's open acknowledgement and discussion of the fear and doubt that is embedded into every aspect of being an artist. Fear is not something that many people are good at talking about because of it's obvious (and false) associations with weakness. Artists, like any professionals, are expected to be confident and knowledgable to the masses about the work that they make and are continually pressed from all sides to categorically fit into some universal idea of success when, for the most part, this idea does not exist.
Divided into chapters like; Fears About Yourself, Fears About Others, and Finding Your Work, each explains the psychology about everyday decisions and fears that motivate or paralyze artists from making work. Many times it felt as though the authors were trying to convince the artist to give up trying to win the affection of the general public, from Finding Your Work;
"Artists ( like everyone else) have a certain tendency to keep to their own compass heading even as the world itself veers off another direction. When Columbus returned from the New World and proclaimed the earth was round, almost everyone else went right on believing the earth was flat. Then they died - and the next generation grew up believing the world was round. That's how people change their minds."
It is only in death do generations of people come around to understanding the relevancy of any particular part of culture. Perhaps this is one explanation as to why Modern art remains so popular to the general public - the majority of people may still be catching up. I don't mean to spread hate on the Modernists or people who enjoy Modernist work, I enjoy and respect their work for what it is, but I would be remiss if I didn't emphasize the importance of ideas behind many contemporary artists.
From The Outside World,
"Most of what we inherit is so clearly correct it goes unseen. It fits the world seamlessly. It is the world. But despite its richness and variability, the well-defined world we inherit doesn't quite fit each one of us, individually. Most of us spend most of our time in other peoples' worlds- working at predetermined jobs, relaxing to pre-packaged entertainment- and no matter how benign this ready made world may be, there will always be times when something is missing or doesn't quite ring true. And so you make your place in the world by making part of it- by contributing some new part to the set. And surely one of the more astonishing rewards of art making comes when people make time to visit the world you have created. Some, indeed, may even purchase a piece of your world and carry back and adopt as their own. Each new piece of your art enlarges our reality. This world is not yet done."
The relevance of this paragraph lies in a few important areas. It is made clear that pre-packaged experiences and worlds exist and, for the most part, people are satisfied with what already exists in the world. However beautiful and enjoyable these experiences are, for artists, there will always be something about these experiences that feels awry- its this strange feeling that plummets and forces many people into the depths of art making. Art making becomes the only aspect of reality that feels completely true for each artist.
The tone of this paragraph is one of expanding imagination. Artists are creating new worlds to help enlarge the cultural vocabulary of human reality. The notion that an artist could be capable of such kind of creation, however small, is motivating. It is this motivating aspect of the paragraph that leads one to believe that creating new realities is one of the highest forms of success for human culture. It is ever the surprise that art continues to create new worlds despite it's continual process of appropriation and recycling.