After a discussion about Dave Matthews, Steve Martin, Al Pacino and Stephen Spielberg earlier this evening, a question was posed: "As an artist, how do you still manufacture the hunger and pump out product without any real incentive to do so?" I've thought about the answer, and understand all the varying circumstances for every situation, they're all unique, but I think there is an honest answer at the core...
I believe a complacent mind is unable to truly push the envelope or create the stuff of wonder, because it’s just that; complacent. The hunger wanes, the spark dims, the notes have all been played, it has nothing to struggle thru and no need to achieve. Some artists only wish to be established and maintain steady work, whatever it is, so long as its in the same field. Every now and then, few and far between, one of these lack-luster artists produces something "on par" with what they were once hailed for. Perhaps they never really left their once-great work, but just can't do anything else, they only know how to do the thing they do one or two ways, and we simply see it as something unremarkable because we've grown accustomed to it, because we've become complacent with their work. The most important thing to remember is that people are the ones who place value art. The artist may still believe that what they're doing is genuinely "good".
Most artists start out because it is their passion, not because they're trying to get rich, usually the first group of works we get from them are the ones they've been perfecting for years, with no time constraints or commercial pressures etc. It's their most authentic work, maybe it's a bit raw and unrefined, and when they get recognized and signed they acquire the resources to polish it, usually shortly after that, they peak. Anyone who is creative knows that the hardest thing in the world to do is produce on demand; it's uninspired.
You have to be dynamic and continually seek new experiences, you have to be true to yourself, as cliche as it sounds (and its hard once you've "gone commercial") and you have to evolve.
*Seek new experiences - only by doing this can you hope to have something relevant to say. Only by living life, experiencing a myriad of emotions, and seeking out new facets of the human experience can your art have meaning. Those who stagnate have stagnant art.
*Stay true to yourself - know your influences, know who you are. Know what you're good at and what you aren't. Know what got you into your position and what can take you out of it. Know the people who are trying to convert you into a dollar sign, and know who are the people who enrich your artistic soul.
*Evolve - If you do the first 2, this one will take care of itself. You must always push the boundaries of what is being done. You must have an awareness of those who have blazed a trail before you, and have a sense of how far you need to go. Never regress, never accept mediocrity, and most importantly, never let Glen fucking Ballard near you or your loved ones.