Honestly, I’m not bitter that it never caught on. And when I say “never,” I really mean “not yet,” because I’m still trying. Here’s how I put the question to guests on Live from the Arts Center, an interview and music show airing Thursdays 1:00-2:00 p.m. on KMSU 89.7FM:
Me: So, big question. Off the top of your head. It’s big. Ready?
Me: It’s like the “invisibility vs. flying” question. But for artists. You know, like, when somebody at a party asks you to choose a superpower, like if you were forced to choose between invisibility and flying, which would you choose?”
Me: Yeah. It’s like that. But for artists. Ready?
Guest: I guess flying.
Me: That’s not the question.
Obviously the lengthy preface needs to go. But I can’t help myself. It’s exciting to believe in the novel brilliance of your own idea, never mind that it makes for clumsy radio. I get there, eventually:
Me: The question is, if you were forced to choose one of the following for the rest of your creative life, would it be 1) agony while you’re creating, but with huge external validation guaranteed in the end; or 2) joy in the creative process, but you’ll never get any external validation, ever?
I’ve posed the question to more than 100 local artists, authors, and musicians. And while everybody so far agrees that the question itself needs work in order to usurp “invisibility vs. flying” as the most catchy yet provocative yet politically neutral thing a person can ask in nearly any social setting, everybody also has an answer. No two answers are the same, but there’s remarkable consistency in how clear it is that anybody making art at any level has given some thought to the importance (or not) of external validation and intrinsic joy.
In hopes of smoothing out the question and broadening the range of soul-baring insights Live from the Arts Center offers the listening audience each week, I recently invited poet Ronda Redmond to join the show as a co-host, with her own wish list of guests and her own interview style. You know who can clean up a clumsy question and make it engaging vs. confusing? A poet. Not only is Ronda an eloquent host who gets guests talking and laughing and sharing things they had no idea they were burning to share about life and art, she’s helped me come up with some new questions, some of which get asked on every show:
Who’s a dream collaborator? Who’s an artist in your genre who’s overrated?
What’s something you’re not good at, but you love doing?
Who in this community has mentored you, and who do you mentor?
How do you know a (painting, story, song) is finished?
And more. To hear them all, hear what guests have to say in response, and start formulating your own answers should you be asked — that is, once the questions finally make their way into regular social situations and render “invisibility vs. flying” totally passé — tune in 1-2 p.m. Thursdays to KMSU 89.7FM (streaming and archived for two weeks at kmsu.org).