I’m sure you’ve heard the term “starving artist” before. This label applies to individuals pursuing art and struggling to make ends meet; at the least in the United States, it’s a title that is somewhat, oddly, seen as normal.
But let’s look at the term a different way, shall we?
Let’s suppose we have a well-known, successful author, who’s had back-to-back bestsellers. He’s doing just fine financially, has reasonable control of his time, and has a social life with which to fill part of that time.
But what if he’s still starving?
Now, of course, I don’t mean his plate is empty, but a tangential term applied to artists is “The Tormented Artist”. Somewhere in our psyche, we’re lead to believe that a composer must be consumed by her work, painfully hungry for her next piece, or an author must be riddled by his last written chapter, starving for perfection in its craft but falling short of it.
This is a challenging subject for me because I understand it first hand. I have been consumed by my art, to the point where it has become my master and negatively impacted me. My well-being has suffered amidst losing battles in the pursuit of the ideal.
This is an identity problem.
An artist is taught to wear his torment as a badge. If art doesn’t engulf you, are you actually an artist? Does it actually matter?
Fervently, I say yes. Why? Because art is not something one is - it’s something one does.
Art is an extension of the heart and not the core of someone.
The belief that an artist is his/her art is dangerous, to say the least. It’s standing on flimsy firmament, where your (or others’) whims about your work decide your foundation. And that’s a scary place to be. And, it will leave you empty - it will leave you starving.
I can’t speak for anyone else’s process, but in my experience, anxiety is a cork for creative expression. I’ve wanted to believe that in my states of angst I’d find what I was looking for, but mainly I just felt impeded until I dealt with the situation or let it pass. Perhaps I’d uncover a kernel that I’d visit later, but the creative storm and the emotional/mental storm are generally at odds.
I’ve found that the best work comes from a state of presence, a state of peace; where I’m harmonious to let art flow through me or extend from me, and I myself am satisfied, I myself am satiated.
I’m a person who happens to do art. It does not define me nor determine my value.
At my best, brightest, and most beautiful, I work with this truth at the forefront and am free.
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