The life of a creative artist is a bit of a bitch.
You love the doing of what you do. The manic butterfly-driven flow as you fill a thick wodge of pages with words. The power of using your entire body to vibrate sound after sound after sound and singing with something inside you that is completely intangible. The touch of brush to the blank bumps of a fresh canvas.
The practice of being faithfully vulnerable.
But I meet many creative people who would rather keep their passions as a hobby precisely because they want to avoid it becoming “like work”. Why?
Because the minute there is pressure to create it, to sell it, to deliver on it, to market and promote it, to be accountable for it, to be criticized for it…the creative genius inside clams shut. It’s as if the minute art is created with conscious regard to another person’s opinion, BAM!
It either stops being art (IE. commercial tripe) or it serves to whack a great big hand over the mouth of the muse. Not nice.
For artists who align themselves with this philosophy – and I would argue there are many creative institutions who behave this way as well – it’s never about other people, but about their own relationship to the results of their own creativity. That way, if they believe it’s great art then it doesn’t matter what the audience thinks (or how many tickets they buy). It’s My Artistic Sovereignty.
Which can be a perfectly justifiable way to live an artistic life.
Most of us would agree that the beauty of speech is not solely in the mouth of the orator.
It’s in the spark and flight of a conversation.
The joy of creating great art, in my opinion, is all about a call and an echo. Not just an offering, but a response.
Creating great art, I humbly offer, is about reveling in the interactive. Creating a magical reaction. Like the grumpy old restaurant critic’s mouthful of ratatouille in the animated film of the same name, just one bite of a seemingly simple peasant dish can evoke a memory of startling power.
If you value a creative life, consider this of your next venture as you work away at getting it right;
Will it start a dialogue?
Will it tickle a nerve?
Wrench a heart in two?
Disturb an assumption?
Evaporate the fog?
Can you give something – anything – and then wait patiently for the answer?
Because the beauty of encouraging ‘the echo’ instead of obsessing about ‘the call’ is that you turn the spotlight off yourself and on to your audience. You get to concentrate on the truth arising from the paint instead of the skill behind the stroke.
I try to practice this when I sing – reminding myself that I am a channel for another person’s genius, for this music to get to a room full of ears in real time with as much beauty as I can muster. But always thinking of the music, the words, the drama, the text. How do I want them to feel? What epiphanies do I want to create?
But when I forget – and damn it, I always start by forgetting! – inevitably my nerves buckle in, my need for approval surges and my stupid ego blocks the view of my own awesomeness like a fat head in a dark cinema.
So today, why not remember that you are a creator – but one who channels, who calls, who is conduit, message-bearer and cup. By all means, work as long and as tirelessly as you must on perfecting the call…
Just don’t forget about the magic of the response. Are you listening?