Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Making it

I've heard a few comments lately about "making it". It made me think about what exactly it is we're making when we "make it". And what it means to "make it".

I think we most often hear this term applied to those in the arts--musicians, painters, writers, etc--in reference to being able to make a sustainable living at what they love. Becoming a household name, getting a song played on mainstream radio, making an appearance on Jeopardy!--whatever the specifics are, it usually means achieving a certain amount of fame and wealth. Maybe a modest amount, but certain amount nonetheless.

But poets, well, we're a special breed, aren't we? Or at least, we like to paint ourselves as such. But few can argue that poetry is as mainstream an art form as pop music. Very few--if any--poets achieve the rock star status enjoyed by some of those in other creative fields. Very few are even able to make a modest living at poetry. So does that mean that fewer poets "make it", or is our definition of "making it" different for poetry? Yet, we can probably spot those who definitely HAVE "made it". We probably agree that a Billy Collins or a Maya Angelou have "made it". But can you "make it" without reaching quite that high a status? Say, someone who received a Pushcart nomination? And is it even important to "make it"?

If you've spent any amount of time around poets in general, you've probably met at least one or two who don't believe in making money off of their art--maybe you're even someone who believes that yourself. Is there a way to "make it" in that case? Is "making it" even a goal? Do any of us ever expect to "make it" and work toward that goal, or is poetry just something we do for fun, community, socialization, release, art for art's sake?

Let me know your thoughts on what "making it" means to you, whether you're a poet, novelist, graphic designer, musician, teacher, data entry analyst....I'm curious. Humor me.


Pressin On said...

making it for me has meant enjoying a community of poets who mutually respect one another and inspire/are inspired by each other. having that kind of support, and outlet for sharing new work...a feeling of sameness. to turn on and be turned on. o yeah!

christina said...

Making it can mean different things to different people depending on how they measure success.

For one person it might be recognition among the local poets in their area.. for another a wider recognition. For someone else a Pushcart Award or sought after book of poetry in print. For someone else nobel laureate or money and notoriety...
I think it can vary considerably.

But I think it should be based on a standard we set not someone else's idea of making it... because others idea of success and fame vary. We'll never be able to meet all the criteria for that..
So better to set out own standards for making it and set our own course..

Anonymous said...

When I'm ridin' round the world
and I'm doin' this and I'm signing that
and I'm tryin' to make some girl
who tells me baby better come back later next week
'cause you see I'm on losing streak.
I can't get no, oh no no no.
Hey hey hey, that's what I say.

I can't get no, I can't get no,
I can't get no satisfaction,
no satisfaction, no satisfaction, no satisfaction

Anonymous said...

When I'm ridin' round the world
and I'm doin' this and I'm signing that
and I'm tryin' to make some girl
who tells me baby baby baby baby baby baby baby baby baby baby baby baby baby......

(The Devo version is so much cooler!)

John B. Burroughs said...

I've thought about this for a week - really try to pin down what "making it" means to me. And the best I can conclude right now is that I'm not so sure I believe in making it.

Maybe if I can find time I'll go into greater depth describing how/why I've reached this conclusion - will take a lot of explaining. But it's true - for me, at least.

Shelley Chernin said...

Does "making it" necessarily imply a goal, either personal or cultural?

Has the hypothetical poet whose life work is discovered in a desk drawer and published posthumously to much acclaim "made it"?

VertigoXX said...

My case is different, but I'll type here anyway. Being a promoter and publisher, "making it" would be having enough paid sponsorship that I could do what I enjoy full-time, without the need or worry of the evil day-job. "Making it" would involve being able to pay a stipend to all the poets all my shows feature, and even cover travel expenses and lodging for those who come from far away. "Making it" would be not watching as the podcast subscriber count slowly inches closer to a thousand, but counting how many hundreds of thousands of downloads each new episode gets. But if I dwell on where I want to be, I dwell on not being there. So I set smaller goals, and then keep achieving them as quickly as I can. I think through this way, and I can dwell on success, and then focus on the next step. Small accomplishments are the key. I can either dwell on "how to make SNWTPH the BIGGEST show in the WORLD?" or I can be proud that in less than three years' time it has grown into one of the top-five shows in the region, and focus on growing from there. Have I "made it?" No, and I likely never will. No matter how far you get, there's further to go.

Now, when I am declared dictator of the entirety of planet earth, then I can say "yes, I've made it" and be done. :-)

pottygok said...

I think one has "made it" when one travels throughout their city/region and poets that one has never met have heard of you and/or read your work.


The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau