If you scratch under apathy's surface -- in other words, if apathy blinks for a moment -- you find that its batteries are powered by fear. "Why bother?" is convenient.
So: there are a couple of models. One: wandering through a museum, you can see when an artist cracked it, found his mojo, got a following. It's because there are often seventy-eight variations on a theme, riffs on painting #1. That's utterly valid, because you never know -- you might not really get it right until #78.
The other: in an interview, one of the Modern Lovers talked about going on tour with Jonathan Richman, and how the group was excited about building on "Roadrunner," and all Jonathan wanted to do was write songs like "Hey There, Little Insect." In other words, stuff that would get them thrown off the stage. But stuff he wanted to do, maybe because so many people wanted more of "Roadrunner." More apt maybe is One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest followed up by Sometimes a Great Notion. "This may not be what I do best nor is it what you expect but it's what I need to do." Which might be exactly what the artist who paints the same goddamned thing 78 times is thinking.
And the third way? Hands? Maybe you just proceed with humility and without expectation and one day you're either finished with a shiny replica of what you've already accomplished or you've done something completely different. And I bet you won't know which it is, not really.
I've recently been butchering an Orson Welles quotation, which should actually read like this: "The enemy of art is the absence of limitations." I've been saying things like "absolute freedom is the absolute enemy of an artist," which is different, more of a punch in the head, and more weirdly personal. So I am starting this project with some limits in mind.
(These aren't limits - they're notes.)
1. How little can you say?
2. If you finished writing a book, you don't have to keep writing it.
4. The illusion of knowing everything, with compassion, stops being illusion as soon as someone is reading and nodding, yes, I see, got it.