“Each word before leaving my lips seemed to have passed through all the warmth of my blood. There was no fibre in me which did not give forth an harmonious sound. Ah, grace! The state of grace! Each time it is given me to touch the summit of my art, I recover that unspeakable abandonment.”
— Eleonora Duse
If you fancy yourself a “creative type,” you might feel like you have to fight a never-ending battle for your art, whether against the “system” or against the daily minutiae that threaten to suck the life out of your creative soul. But the only enemy we ever have to face is “the enemy within our own household” — in other words, within us.
We fight daily skirmishes. Mapping the terrain we want to conquer. “Humping it” through the jungle of our mind, where voices echo from behind every tree. Trudging through the thicket of our heart, where a firefight of unresolved emotions threatens to cut us down at every turn. Slugging through the swampland of our psyche, where strange and terrifying creatures stir just beneath the murky depths.
And this is just to get out of bed!
The path to our creative potential seems riddled with land mines. Resistance. Procrastination. Competition. Fear. Doubt. Desire. Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk! These are just some of the combatants we confront as we sneak behind enemy lines, secure the bridge and try to claim that frickin’ hill!
But claim it we must — whatever that creative hill is.
Ironically, though, to win “the war of art,” we must give up the fight and surrender.
Perhaps you’ve experienced so much negative conditioning around your creativity — or its potential to find a place in the world — that you suffer from a “broken art.” The object of your artistic affection brings up emotions akin to a jilted lover. You feel anxious, unsure, angry, depressed. You procrastinate making a connection to the object of your art. It’s an approach-avoidance relationship — an aching to be in its warm embrace, and a fear of getting burned by it.
When it comes to your creativity, you’re just not yourself lately.
Maybe you get involved in addictive, self-destructive habits like eating or drinking too much, compulsively cleaning your office, mindlessly surfing the Internet, or watching infomercials all the way through! You think something’s wrong with you: you’re lazy, stubborn, chemically imbalanced, creatively impaired, karmically challenged. Maybe you’re not meant to do this after all; maybe you’ve been lying to yourself all along — maybe your dad was right and you should get a “real job”!
But that’s not the problem. You have a broken art.
Your art is aching. It has Coronary Artistry Disease! It hasn’t been given the love, attention, and recognition it needs to feel nurtured. It feels abandoned, stepped on, even betrayed. And there’s only one way to reverse this hardening of the art-eries (I couldn’t resist): Take off the protective armor. Open your art. And risk breaking it all over again.
Feed the “Starving Artist”
If you believe you have to be starving in some hovel to create great art, you’ll set up a personal law — through the power of your belief — that manifests as limitation: either living in a shack while you slave away at your craft, living a more abundant but uninspired life or “selling out” for security.
It’s an either-or mindset, based on a false concept of how life works. Instead, try thinking “this and that,” instead of “this or that.” You can be rich and brilliant, successful and spiritual. There are many wealthy, award-winning creators of all types. At the height of Picasso’s career, he could doodle on a napkin and pay for anything.
Now that’s owning your artistic power!
There are also artists happily and abundantly plying their craft below the radar. So it’s not about the size of your lifestyle; it’s about the quality of your life.
But feeding the starving artist goes beyond merely the monetary aspects. If you harbor a withholding consciousness toward your creativity, you’re likely to be depriving yourself in other ways. Just as some spiritual ascetics think the only way to God is by fasting, isolating and sleeping on a bed of nails, there’s a prevalent belief that in order to create great art you have to suffer, as well.
Tom Petty would supposedly get himself into bad relationships that ended horribly just so his heart would be sufficiently shredded to write a great love song. Van Gogh is hailed as the archetype for the idea that suffering equals great art. But you don’t need to be in insane relationships that end in bloody betrayal and heartbreak to write passionate love songs; you don’t need to be a tortured soul at all to create something worthy.
Pain is natural. Suffering is optional.
You can have great art and happiness. You can create great work and be highly functional. You can get your act together — and still be inspired to write that second act!
Are you willing to be whole? Are you willing to be a healthy, happy person who also happens to create great art? Are you willing to “adopt a life of luxury,” as Deepak Chopra says — an abundant life of variety and adventure, free from both the drama that saps the spirit and the monotony that dulls the senses?
To heal your broken art, you must deeply love the inner artist — which means romancing the muse, not starving and torturing it.
Feed your inner artist with rich living, deep feeling and expansive thinking, and it will burst forth with a creative strength, stamina and vision that not only transforms your life but has the potential to change the world.