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  • Writer's pictureJacob Holloway

Struggling for Integrity

"Whether I like it or not, for example, and no matter what I call myself, I suppose the only word for me, when the chips are down, is that I am an artist." - James Baldwin

I don't know a way to start this off without sounding pretentious. There just isn't a way. No matter how hard I try, I am just an asshole artist. Someone arrogant enough to think that people care about what I write. That my words might actually mean something to someone.

In high school my English teacher Mr. Gaskill told me to look into James Baldwin's lecture "The Artist's Struggle for Integrity" because he thought I was closing in on some of the ideas expressed in the lecture. And this changed my life. Someone somewhere, somehow believed in me more than I believed in myself. My childhood dreams were slowly coming to a close, but I wasn't done dreaming yet.

"Everybody’s hurt. What is important, what corrals you, what bullwhips you, what drives you, torments you, is that you must find some way of using this to connect you with everyone else alive." - James Baldwin

I grew up lonely. Loved with plenty of friends and family, but lonely. Silent. Observing the world. Playing with my toys and going on grand adventures during recess, but alone. Like all of us. I grew up. Explored. Started to become bits and pieces of what I hoped to become.

I don't remember what brought it about, maybe it was loneliness, an excess of the love from my home, or some genetic disposition, but I started to write. Not well. Not interesting. I just wrote. The stories from my toy box were not done yet and needed a new medium. I couldn't get around my feelings, I had to face them dead-on--unafraid of the consequences. So I kept on writing. Hoping to connect back to the child I left behind. Not well. Not interesting. But honest.

I hope that doesn't leave.

"The trouble is that although the artist can do it, the price that he has to pay himself and that you, the audience, must also pay, is a willingness to give up everything" - James Baldwin

I'm not the same kid I was when I started writing. I don't do it out of pure love. Expression. Joy. I write out of necessity. Validation. A release of pain. I am an artist now. I'm not proud of it, but its what I am. There is still more I have to give up though in this life. Everything I write is giving up a piece of myself. Its no longer mine--no matter how desperately I want to hold on to it.

I write this as a reach back to integrity. To remember who I am. If you are an artist. Writer. Poet. Painter. Filmmaker. An artist. Remember why you first started creating. In the end we're all just doing what we must do. No one cares about your art. That is their art now. Find your integrity again. What makes you, you. I'm done with struggling for integrity.


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