Encouragement Or Enabling?

By Nathan Payne | pablosmoglives | 18 Feb 2022

When it comes to the arts, I'm not a believer in over-encouragement.  I'm not in favor of discouragement, necessarily, but in this era of artistic relativism in which "anything is art because I say it's art," I think it's time to stop enabling artless people from polluting the waters any further.  If there's anything the world doesn't need, it's more fake art.


Children and people in the very early stages of their craft need encouragement, but a true artist needs to learn to overcome adversity.  Celebrating every "expression" that comes from the heart and mind of a person who has no artistic talent is a form of enabling.  It is no different than buying booze for an alcoholic.  If the person is killing themselves and/or the people (or culture) around them, the last thing they need is another bottle of whiskey, another pat on the back.  They need to take an honest look in the mirror and ask themselves the necessary, difficult questions.  "Am I an alcoholic?"  "Am I an artist?"  "Do my actions and behaviours (and self-absorbed "expressions") damage the people (or culture) around me?"  "Are people afraid to tell me I have a problem (or no talent), inadvertently keeping me enslaved to a condition that benefits no one, and perhaps is even harmful?"  "Do I have any business with a bottle in my hand?"  "A paintbrush?"  "A musical instrument?" 

The answer, as often as not, is no.

e7f8160b39b9cd561c44276140b592ee2d34aba8dfa60769403ae1db7b21262f.pngRoger Scruton - Why Beauty Matters

The reason for this is simple:  The true artist will make art regardless of any encouragement or discouragement they may or may not receive.  Discouragement for its own sake, of course, is abusive.  The world will offer discouragement enough; there is no need to add to it.  But the fact remains:

An artist will make art, and a non-artist will not.  Regardless of what he or she is or isn't told.

All this is to say:

There's a guy in Norway who contacted me years ago, very excited about having discovered his inclination toward music and songwriting.  He was writing me on a very regular basis, and I am ashamed to admit to a certain amount of aggravation at the regularity of his correspondence.  I discouraged him from writing me so consistently, but even though I felt bad about it, in the fear that I came off ungrateful for his interest and appreciation of my own work (which I was not), I always hoped that I didn't discourage him from pursuing the craft.

I've been following him ever since, and I'm happy to report that not only did I not stop him from writing (as though that were possible), but that indeed he's begun to flourish as a songwriter and artist.  This instrumental song he posted yesterday is absolutely beautiful:

He has been inspired by the Beach Boys and Southern California as of late, and has many demos of songs about the beach, California, and Americana in general on his YouTube page.  He's obviously past the amateur stage of needing encouragement to continue, and will persist regardless of what anybody says, so offer him some encouragement if you feel so inclined.  He has earned it.

Thanks for listening.

From the article Permanent Vocation:

p.s.  By all means, learn to sing and play guitar, harmonica, ukulele, whatever you like, for its own sake as an amateur kick, of course.  By all means. It is a wonderful thing to do.  Have a good time with it.  Go to the open mic, karaoke, have a concert in the shower.  Play guitar by the fire. Have song circles with your friends.  There's no reason not to.  Absolutely no reason.  If you like writing songs, there's a hint.  If you can't not do it, there's another hint.  But if you make professional music videos based on nothing more than having a high subscriber count (and therefore high thumbs-up rate) on a non-artistic YouTube channel, be prepared for some blowback.












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Nathan Payne
Nathan Payne

I am a songwriter and bandleader who travels the world in search of the golden ticket.


Replacing my blog at

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