The Magic Pill for Success

If you could swallow a pill and make yourself immensely successful with your art, would you? One pill to give you fame and fortune.

This is the premise for the American Horror Story series, Red Tide. The protagonist is a struggling writer, with a severe case of writer’s block. He takes a mysterious pill and suddenly the pages just “come to him” in a flash.

I found myself questioning whether I would take the same pill? Now in the series, they doubled down on the motivation, making it clear this guy’s career was finished if he couldn’t produce a new TV pilot. 

Before you make this hypothetical choice, consider this: Why do you create art in the first place?

The allure of the magic pill is that you instantaneously gain insight into your art and are able to produce something near perfect. The understanding is that this astounding script, or painting, or musical ability will lead to unprecedented financial success and worldwide fame.

Yet genius doesn’t always lead to monetary success. Take artists like Keats or Van Gogh, both astoundingly talented, yet poor in their lifetimes. Van Gogh only ever sold two paintings. And the critics hated the poetry of Keats. 

But let’s assume your fondest wishes came true and and fame and cash come barreling through your door. The list of famous musicians who had success devour them is quite a long one. Examples include Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse. So fame and fortune do not guarantee happiness.

This goes back to the essential question. Why are you creating art in the first place? If it’s to make money, there are plenty of other lucrative professions where a large paycheck is guaranteed. If it’s for attention or fame, these things are fickle. Just look at all the kids who dream of being an internet influencer. 

Art should bring you joy. Your creativity, paired with skill and discipline, will lead to a certain amount of success. But the process is a long one.

Creating art is like diving into a well to dredge up memories and secrets from your soul. It’s a deeply personal effort. If you rush and try to short change the process, you will gain a false sense of superiority. But where did you get that amazing creativity. — from a pill or from yourself? Is your art honest? Is it you?

In the series, they make it clear that once you start using these pills, you can never go back. The only way you’ll be able to create is with the magic medicine.

So no. I would pass on the magic pill. I prefer to create art for myself — a way to better my soul. Some fame and fortune would be amazing, but they can’t be the end goal (despite how hard this is to accept on some days).

Learn to be yourself and your art will follow. 

Tim Kane

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