Image by by Yellow.Cat (Creative Commons)
In reading dozens of biographies of artists, writers, musicians, and more, and experiencing this myself, it’s obvious that all creative people face a defining moment in their lives.
A sounding bell marks that moment. And we can either answer it, or ignore it.
If we answer the call, we can begin our lives as real artists, by using our creativity and embracing our own weirdness.
If we ignore the call, we have no choice but to conform, be complacent and agreeable, silence our inner voices, quell our wild energy with the help of drugs or therapy, and live a normal, compliant life.
This moment, this turning point, marks a bittersweet feeling in the hearts of those who experience it. It’s bittersweet, because we can either finally understand who we are, or we can reject the face we see in the mirror. We can either detach ourselves from the opinions and expectations of others and live with empowerment and self-governance, or we can grip ever more tightly to the chains of conformity, hoping that one day the world will like us, accept us, and see us as “normal.”
Tough decision. I know.
Adrian Peterson—NFL running back of the Minnesota Vikings—is one of the greatest backs in the history of pro football. He’s also living, breathing evidence of “destiny” and “calling.” When you watch this man run, you can’t help but say to yourself, “this dude was born to run.”
When Adrian Peterson gallops around defenders and dashes to the end zone, you know he’s in his “element.” I’ve heard recently that he even has aspirations to run in the 2016 Olympics—the 200 and 400-meter dash.
It doesn’t surprise me.
If you could catch Peterson’s destiny with the flash of a camera, with an image, it would be of him running in his signature galloping grace. It doesn’t matter whether he’s running in the NFL or the Olympics, on grass or track—either way he’s fulfilling his destiny as a pure runner.
I believe that we too have our own destiny. And our density, like Adrian’s, can also be captured in an “image.”
Image by Li-So (Creative Commons)
Real artists live constructively. And they work constructively. They’ve learned to do their work despite flitting feelings. They’ve learned to be consistent, persistent, and professional. They’ve learned to get things done, and ship their babies out into the harsh, judgmental world.
Real artists know something pseudo artists don’t.
If pseudo artists knew this, they wouldn’t be what they are—a shadow of their real selves, a glint of their real potential. They wouldn’t do what they do—procrastinate, loaf, and let their emotions control their actions.
What Pseudo Artist’s Don’t Know
What pseudo artists don’t know is that in each moment of the day, they are in charge of their behaviour. They’re in charge, despite how they’re feeling at the time.
Time and time again, pseudo artists drop the ball, bail on responsibilities and fail in endeavours because of how they’re “feeling.”
Unhealthy artists are controlled by their ideas, insights and emotions.
This article will help you banish some of the big excuses you may be using that keep you from being a productive, healthy artist. But before that, let’s define what the words healthy and unhealthy artist actually mean (to me, anyway).
Healthy artists transform their ideas, insights and emotions into useful creations. They’re self-disciplined and active. They do their work even if they’re in a foul mood. By working in the real world, healthy artists gain a realistic outlook on life. By consistently engaging their talents, they discover things about themselves.
Unhealthy artists, on the other hand, are controlled by their ideas, insights and emotions. Their foul moods dictate whether they’ll work on that screenplay or not. Their thinking is often negative. They’re stuck in their imagination. They dream and reflect, but at the end of each day they have little to show for it.
No paintings, no screenplays, no drawings.
Typically, this is how an unhealthy artist feels: they have creative energy, but they’re unsure how to use it. They feel stuck, restless, and anxious. They depend on all forms of escapism because they fear boredom, which usually stems from a fear of being alone. Because when they’re alone in the house with nobody around, they hear the faint whispers of their authentic selves.
You should write that book. You should take that acting class. You should form that band.
For the Creator Who Isn’t Creating, something deep down tells her she should be exercising her creative energy.
It’s not a happy sight. Men with creative energy, who aren’t being creative, release it by scrapping with clenched fists. I’m not sure what women do—maybe they scrap verbally.
Writers who aren’t writing compensate by acting like the character that they just want to write about.
Artists who aren’t making art compensate by dramatizing their real lives. They argue, fight, and scream. They’re irritable most of the time—without knowing why. They feel restless, even guilty.
Guilty, that is, for not creating.
Instead of employing their creative energy in useful ways, the Creator Who Isn’t Creating internalizes it and even projects it onto others. She suppresses her imagination—that’s where guilt kicks in. No matter how busy and productive she may be, if she isn’t doing the work she knows she should be doing, she feels guilty.
An excellent example of what happens when a Creator Isn’t Creating is the story of author Joanna Penn. I read an interesting article on Ollin Morale’s blog where he interviews Penn. She explained why she quit a high-earning job as an IT Consultant to write full-time. I would bet that, for Joanna, that comfy IT position wasn’t fulfilling her. No matter how comfortable she was financially, there was something else tugging at her sleeve for attention: her creative calling.
Image by Steve Snodgrass (Creative Commons)
It’s 9 am.
I’m grumpy, agitated, drained.
A knot jumbles in my stomach. Self-doubt pumps itself through my veins. I’m anxious. I’ve taken a year off to write a book and I wonder—was it worth it?
Do I even have something unique to say? Was I meant to be a writer, or something else? My father is a handyman, my brother a skilled carpenter.
Is language my gift?
I don’t know.
I sip my second cup of bean coffee. I wonder how much more energy I have to schlep out another day at the desk.
The real artist endures guilt and fear. Instead of dwelling on these emotions, she uses them to fuel her greatest creative efforts.
I have a lot of bad habits that keep me from doing my best work. Instead of writing, my amateur mentality will always be there to coax me into taking a nap, or surfing the web, or getting drunk.
I think these avoidance habits stem from fear. I resist doing my work because I cringe at the idea of failure, rejection, being exposed. These fears lead to inactivity, procrastination, constant delaying.
Do you let bad habits prevent you from doing your work? If you do, then you know what usually comes next.
Guilt is that hollow feeling that gnaws at the pit of our stomachs. Guilt reminds us we’re cowards and phonies for not pursuing our dreams.
At this point we reach a crossroads—do we take the path of the pseudo artist or the real artist?