Is It Possible to be a Happy Artist?…
There’s a myth that’s perpetuated among artists, which I’ve bought into myself earlier in life, that says in order to be a successful artist, you have to be miserable. Some people term it as you have to suffer for your art. By the mere fact I’ve called it a myth, should tell you that I don’t agree with this notion. But more importantly than that, how does one become successful and maintain happiness? That’s the question I explore in this lesson. After hearing my thoughts, please comment below and let me know if you agree or disagree with everything I’ve presented. Thanks for tuning in.
SELECTED LINKS FROM EPISODE:
-Happy Artists (Psychology Today Article): https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/zig-zag/201409/happy-artists
-Do You Have to Be Miserable to Be An Artist Article: https://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-frawley/2012/04/do-you-have-to-be-miserable-to-be-an-artist/
-Master Mental Fortitude Non-Fiction Book: http://mastermentalfortitude.com
-Adorama Affiliate Link: https://www.adorama.com/?utm_source=rflaid914115
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There’s a myth that’s perpetuated among artists, which I’ve bought into myself earlier in life, that says in order to be a successful artist, you have to be miserable. Some people term it as you have to suffer for your art. By the mere fact I’ve called it a myth, should tell you that I don’t agree with this notion. But more importantly than that, how does one become successful and maintain happiness? Let’s explore together.
First off, I will admit, there are plenty of examples of successful artists that have been unhappy, which I use as an encompassing word for depression, alcoholism, drug addiction and other such negative states. People in this category include Charles Bukowski, Kurt Cobain, Charles Dickens, Vincent Van Gogh, Ernest Hemingway, Janet Jackson, Joan Miro, Edgar Allen Poe, Soren Kierkegaard, David Foster Wallace, Sylvia Plath and Stephen King, to name a few.
Stephen King is an interesting example, because he represents both sides of the coin. Early in Stephen King’s career, he drank and took drugs. During that time he turned out amazing work such as Carrie, It, The Shining and others. But he’s been sober now for decades and has continued to produce novel after novel of equal acclaim—works like Doctor Sleep, Green Mile, Under the Dome among them.
The problem in society, or at least artistic circles, is that we don’t often focus on the people who don’t suffer. This is mainly because if somehow a person is happy and successful, it doesn’t make for a sexy PR narrative or audiences might shun them. “Why do you get it all, happiness and success?” someone might ask. But the two aren’t mutually exclusive.
There’s an article from Psychology Today, which I’ve linked to in the description box, that shows that artists tend to be happier than most people. For me, the explanation is simple. When you engage in creative work, you get to release and express feelings and traumas. Art is literally therapeutic. Where I believe this notion breaks down for people is that, sure, mindless sketching or journaling is fun and all, but it doesn’t allow for “real” work to be produced. We buy into the adage that you have to suffer for your art.
But it is a myth. (As a quick side note, the amount of limiting beliefs and myths we all buy into is mind boggling. Generally, I now tend to question everything and only accept so-called facts and teachings if they are fundamentally encouraging and rooted in positivity. More on this notion in a future episode though).
The idea that you have to suffer for your art is completely false. You have to work, and work hard, but you don’t have to suffer. The creative act is one of the purest forms of human expression, which is what makes it therapeutic in the first place.
Now, there’s some people who will argue that if you’re happy all the time you can’t tap into the deep human emotion needed to create art in the first place. I call bullshit on this. As an artist, you should be a good observer of life around you and be able to tap into that. You should be able to get into the minds of your subjects without having to become that subject. That’s the real artistry.
Secondly, I’m also not saying you’re always going to be happy. You will experience hardships in your life that can inform your art. But don’t go seeking them. But in general, you can be happy.
I find that most successful creatives have high empathy. They can feel people’s pain to a very deep level. This is what leads many of them to depressing thoughts. It’s okay to be empathetic, but remain hopeful. Great art conveys a story or a message that has the power to affect people. And I believe that affect is positive. The amount of times I’ve heard of people who consume art say they found peace because of that art is incredible. To me, that’s the key to maintaining happiness—tap into your emotions, express them on the page and know that in your heart of hearts, no matter the audience size, you can affect someone and push the world in a positive direction. You do that, you’ve won. You’ll find success. You’ll find happiness. You certainly have my permission. Do not buy into the idea that you have to be miserable in order to get notoriety. For your sake, I hope you really accept this lesson. But if you’re grappling with this notion, I’d be curious to know what thoughts prevent you from believing that you can be happy as an artist. Conversely, if somehow my words here have opened up your thinking to more positive terms, please let me know what that feels like.
And with that, that’s it for this lesson. Also, please feel free to click over to any of the numerous lessons I’ve created just for you. I have so many you can check out along with other free resources. All you have to do is go to my website at philsvitek.com. And, coming soon, I’ll be releasing a coursebook with my lessons and exercises for you to put those lessons to practice. For more info, head to mastermentalfortitude.com. Lastly, a huge thank you to the people that helped make this episode financially possible. If you too would like to support this show, you can either head on over to my Patreon or sport some merch from my store. Links are down below as well. Or you can just tell a friend about this show and we can build a great community of like-minded creatives. Anyway, thanks for taking the time to tune in. I’m @PhilSvitek on social media and I’ll see you next time.