Patti Smith on Joy and Suffering (2012)

“You don’t expect to be embraced by the people. Y’know, I’ve done records where it seemed like no one listened to them. You write poetry books that maybe 50 people read. And you just keep doing your work because you have to, because it’s your calling. But it’s beautiful to be embraced by the people. Some people have said to me, ‘Well, y’know, don’t you think that kind of success spoils one as an artist, or, y’know, if you’re a punk rocker you don’t want to have a hit record.’ And I say, ‘Y’know, fuck you.’ One just does their work for the people, and the more people you can touch, the more wonderful it is. You don’t do your work and say, ‘I only want the cool people to read it.’ You want everyone to be transported or, hopefully, inspired by it. When I was really young [and struggling], the advice that William Burroughs gave me was, ‘Build a good name. Keep your name clean. Don’t make compromises. Don’t worry about making a bunch of money or being successful. Be concerned about doing good work. Protect your work and if you build a good name, eventually that name will be its own currency.’ To be an artist – actually, to be a human being – during these times, it’s difficult. You have to go through life, hopefully, trying to stay healthy, being as happy as you can, and pursuing what you want. If what you want is to have children, if what you want is to be a baker, if what you want is to live out in the woods, or try to save the environment … or maybe what you want is to write scripts for detective shows. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is to know what you want and pursue it and understand that it’s going to be hard. Because life is really difficult. You’re going to lose people you love, you’re going to suffer heartbreak, sometimes you’ll be sick, sometimes you’ll have a really bad toothache, sometimes you’ll be hungry. But on the other end, you’ll have the most beautiful experiences – sometimes just the sky, sometimes just a piece of work that you do that feels so wonderful, or you find somebody to love, or your children … There are beautiful things in life, so when you’re suffering, y’know, it’s part of the package. You look at it – we’re born, and we also have to die. We know that. So it makes sense that we’re going to be really happy, and things are going to be really fucked up too. Just ride with it. It’s like a roller coaster ride. it’s never going to be perfect. It’s going to have perfect moments and rough spots. But it’s all worth it. Believe me, I think it is.”