The Joy and Heartache of Living A Creative Life – Skinny Artist

The Joy and Heartache of Living A Creative Life

by: Lois Sapare

Working as a creative artist and getting to do what you love as a career can both be a blessing and a curse.

Not many people get to do what they love and have it become their livelihood for the rest of their lives. However, behind the “We do what we love!” facade, creative artists also face some of the most difficult work-related struggles.

After all, how many times have you heard the theory of the starving artist getting thrown around in pop culture and casual conversations?

Can we all let go of the ‘starving artist’ myth already?

There’s a particular scene in The Big Bang Theory that has always stuck with me–the one where Raj and Stuart were arguing over who gets to paint the baby room, and Raj exclaims out of exasperation, “Just because you’re starving doesn’t make you an artist!”

I think this speaks volumes about how artists are depicted on television and in other pop culture references. While there are many creative fields that are difficult to make money from, it’s certainly not true that artists can’t succeed in business.

While every profession has their own fair share of stereotypes, the starving artist stereotype, in particular, is a dangerous notion that harms both existing professional artists and those who are wanting to pursue a creative career.

By accepting the idea that being an artist means you get to do what you love but you’re going to struggle with your finances, social life, and relationships for the rest of your life, we are discouraging existing and aspiring artists from going after their dream.

Many parents and relatives dissuade family members who are interested in pursuing a career in art as a full-time profession. Often, these potential artists are forced to choose a more “practical” career path they don’t even like but brings food to the table, even if it makes them unhappy for the rest of their lives.

I personally know several people who are crazy talented in art but turned out to be nurses and doctors because their parents would tell them there’s no money in the arts.

Creativity: a blessing or a curse?

Being an artist can both be a rewarding and frustrating experience.

There’s a certain joy and satisfaction that you get out of creating, but it doesn’t take away the fact that it can often be a very lonely profession.

One study led by Simon Kyaga at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute revealed that “people working in creative fields, including dancers, photographers, and authors, were 8% more likely to live with bipolar disorder. Writers were a staggering 121% more likely to suffer from the condition, and nearly 50% more likely to commit suicide than the general population.”

This is most likely a result of too much isolation and lack of connection with the outside world. However, when experienced in reasonable lengths of time, solitude is actually a positive experience and part of the creative process.

Isolation is often what drives a person to be creative. We get our inspiration from a deep place, and we are more likely to produce something extraordinary when it comes out of the intense emotion that we get from our solitude.

When we create, we need time alone to reflect, and it’s not something we can do when we’re always out partying with friends.

We may have to sacrifice some things like having a social life occasionally and accept being alone because it is through this experience that we are able to create something and improve on our craft.

“My best creative work seems to flow late at night or early in the morning. When no-one is around, and I am free to access my deepest, artistic compulsions. For me, a degree of loneliness and solitude amplifies my creative juices and results in some of my best work.” says John Weiss, an ex-police chief and now a full-time landscape painter, writer, and cartoonist who writes for Fine Arts Studio Online. “It seems I require abject quiet and no disruptions to tap into the deepest veins of creativity.”

When we look at the background of famous artists in history, we see that the inspiration for many of their popular paintings stemmed from their own intense emotions.

Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” one of the most recognized masterpieces in history, was a result of the angst he had experienced throughout his life.

He said the idea came to him in a sinister vision as he stood on the edge of Oslofjord. “The sun began to set – suddenly the sky turned blood red. I stood there trembling with anxiety–and I sensed an endless scream passing through nature.” In his diary, he also wrote about the importance of his fears and illness to his craft: “My fear of life is necessary to me, as is my illness. They are indistinguishable from me, and their destruction would destroy my art.”

While many of the most successful and famous artists in history didn’t always live happy and carefree lives like the people around them, they dedicated their lives to pursuing their love for their craft.

In the end, isn’t doing something that you have a burning passion for more meaningful than safely living inside of your comfort zone for the rest of your life?

When it gets too much…

Just because you’re a creative artist doesn’t mean you have to remain miserable for the rest of your life.

You may need solitude in order to create, but that doesn’t mean that you have to be stuck in that phase forever. Although you may have to make some sacrifices to be a creative artist, there are some incredible things that can come out of it.

Modern technology has vastly improved the way we communicate and connect with each other. With the existence of forums and social media sites, it’s now possible to find friends and talk to like-minded people from the other side of the world. Join forums, social media groups, or even conversations in the comment section of your blog or other people’s blogs. Use these platforms to connect and share ideas with fellow artists. Think of it as a creativity support group.

Also, don’t forget to spend time with your friends and loved ones. Yes, you need to dedicate hours and hours of hard work to excel at your craft, but it doesn’t mean you should completely shut everyone else off from your life.

Allow time for yourself and also spend some time reconnecting with loved ones every once in a while. This will help you to feel less alone and let you know that there will always be people you can turn to when you may feel like you’re on your own.

While these things may not completely eliminate the feelings of isolation, they can alleviate it. After all, you will still need a bit of solitude in order to create your art. Of course, if loneliness begins to consume you in a way that becomes harmful to your well-being and becomes a hindrance to your art, it may be time to talk with a mental health professional.

Working in a creative field will always have its own ups and downs.

Some people might get discouraged by the difficulties that come with being a creative artist, and might instead choose to settle for a comfortable and reliable day job that puts food on the table. But for those who have the passion to create their art, the satisfying and rewarding experience outweighs whatever challenges they may face.

As the actor, Jim Carrey once said, “You can fail at doing what you don’t want, so you may as well take a chance doing what you love.”

What do you think?

Do you think that the rewards that come with being a creative artist generally outweighs the struggles?

Take a minute and share your story with us in the comment section below! ☺

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About the Author

Lois Sapare is an editor at Scoopfed and a contributor for PanelWallArt. She is a former student journalist with a bachelor's degree in Information Technology. When she's not writing content on a variety of topics, you can find her watching thriller films or keeping up with the latest buzz in the tech world.

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(8) comments

This is true. I think those of us who are starving are having difficulty reaching out consistently to people in a way non artists can relate to. I am still struggling with this in my 4th full time year.

Reply
    Lois Sapare

    Hi Helena! I agree it can be difficult at times, but with time and experience – as you learn more along the way – it WILL get better. There’s always light at the end of every tunnel, and I hope you find it soon! :)

    Reply
Paul

Great article. My experience though, is that when you’re a person that longs for a lot of deep social interaction, you have a problem when working alone. I’m a musician who likes to work by myself, and then play the music with musicians who i instruct. The solitude definitely is where i get my “golden nuggets” from, and i have a deep love for this inner world. The problem for the last three years has been that i really started to long to share this inner world with other people. Like the desire to show and play in a treehouse you built, with a friend when you’re kids. And i just can’t because it’s inside of me and the emotions are so nuanced and abstract to me that i can’t really communicate them.

This thing has really been sucking up my creative energy and making this inner world i have always loved so much, into a super melancholic and paralyzing place. And really decreasing my production and quality. I feel like i need to find a person that has this as well to be able to relate, but i also feel like i need to find acceptance. Can anyone relate to this situation?

Reply
    Lois Sapare

    Hi Paul! I’ve been in and out of that phase a number of times as well. For the most part of my life, I’ve preferred doing things alone. I function better that way. I could go for days – months even – without social interaction apart from required ones, and I’d be productive for that long. I enjoy it even. But after some time, I’d feel lonely, which leads me to feel indifferent about life and many things and make me unproductive, and I’d long for human interaction once again. During those times, I’d simply take the initiative to contact my friends or simply ask my sister to hang out, and I’d find that it helps greatly to talk to other people about what I’m going through. They’ve always been there to understand my situation. Perhaps you could start by talking to a friend or family member to get you going once again as well? :)

    Reply
Paul

Hey Lois,

Thanks for your reply. I agree talking helps, but with the right people. For instance i’m from a very “normal” family, with people that of course have an inner world too. But they don’t often seem to really explore it or focus on it. It’s more like they experience it more 2d, where for me it would be like this super vivid rollercoaster a lot. Of course having a beer with a friend, and telling him/her about things is nice to let out and get some compassion on or maybe get into a bit. But if they don’t really have it too, the interaction just doesn’t touch it.

I guess with age and experience everything will settle more though. I’m only 24, and i think it probably has to do with the sudden change of perception of the world that came around age 20-21.

Thanks again, you made me think;)

Reply
    Lois Sapare

    That’s true. I can totally relate to that. My family has never been the deep and dramatic type, so when I tell them my problems, it’s usually just what’s on the surface. But it still helps somehow. I reserve talking about my more intense issues to closer friends and people I know would really understand instead. I guess it’s rare to have someone who can really understand our personal problems, but it’s what online communities like this are for.

    You’re welcome, Paul. Hope you’ll work things out soon!

    Reply
      Paul

      Yes i will look up a forum on this kind of topic actually. It’s like sharing notes on my writing process with fellow musicians; super informative. Thanks again for your kind words:)

      Reply
the bat bag

This is very true.

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