TEN MYTHS ABOUT ARTISTS: A Segue

oooh, I’ve always wanted to use the word “segue” in an essay!

In my last “Myths About Artists” post, a reader said there are some people who , feeling entitled, simply want to simply “be” an artist, with all the fame and glory and controversy they think automatically comes with it.

Several themes came to me after reading his thoughtful comments.

First, as a parent, a former teacher, and even a former child (yes, and please, no comments about not having enough fingers, toes or other digits to compute how many years ago that would be), this sounded very familiar.

We all have a desire for our work to gain some attention and respect in the world. And if you’re like me, you probably wish we didn’t have to constantly work so darn hard to get there.

This is a very human trait, after all. Yes, some people work very hard at becoming excellent at their craft, whatever it is. But many of us start out dreaming of an effortless success.

When I dreamed of horses, and of riding horses, I pictured myself riding fearlessly a beautiful horse, galloping wildly across a boundless plain under an open sky.

I did NOT dream of the long and often painful process of learning how to acquire my “seat”–how to sit comfortably for hours on a horse, how to balance instead of bounce (ow, ow, ow), how to control a horse (because atop a wildly running horse can actually be a frightening place to be.)

I did NOT envision the hours of hard work involved in caring for a horse, including grooming, mucking stalls and tacking up. And of course, boarding fees, vet bills and farrier costs never entered my pleasant daydreams, either.

No, it’s all too human to see the glory, not the grit, in our dreams.

But the person who believes they deserve an easy success? This is not the person I have in mind when I write these essays.

In my mind’s eye, I always speak to the person I used to be–the person who never believed that dreams can come true.

I was lost because I was too afraid to pursue my passion, and suffering because of it. I made the lives of my loved ones miserable, because I could be difficult to be with. (Er…still am, actually.)

In the words of my favorite bumper sticker, “Those who abandon their dreams, will discourage yours.”

Eventually, the pain of NOT being an artist surpassed the fear of failure. And that’s when I took my first steps to becoming not just an artist in name only–but an artist with gumption.

When I had the courage to take those first few tentative steps–and to keep on taking them–then I was truly on the path to becoming a more whole person.

That’s what it felt like, anyway. As my pursuit of art became more habit than daydream, my ability to love more freely, to judge less harshly, to be more fearless, to be more thankful, also grew.

Am I perfect? Heck no. I am still racked often–even daily!–by self-doubt, envy, fear, jealousy and sour grapes.

But I just keep on plugging away. Because I believe trying–making a true effort to attain our goals and dreams–matters.

A good friend sometimes says I make too much of this “thing about the horses”. She makes the case that if my current art changed, if I took up another art form, even if my ability to make any art were to disappear, I would still be me. I am not my art.

I get that, I do. But I am still pathetically grateful I had the chance to make this work, and took it, even so.

And every word I write is with this intention–to encourage even just one more person on this planet to do the same.

I encourage you to take the same journey, in your very own individual, inimitable way (of course!)

To paraphrase another friend’s words, I truly believe our acts of creation, by putting positive energy out there, by becoming a more whole human being….

By believing we can all achieve something good by making something that is useful, or beautiful, or both…

…is ultimately an act of peace, and makes the world a slightly better place for all.

Okay, I know I just quoted a hobbit here, but that’s what I believe.

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12 Comments

Filed under action steps, art, artist statement, body of work, business, craft, creativity, fear of failing, gratitude, horses, inspiration, living with intention, mental attitude, myths about artists, perseverence

12 responses to “TEN MYTHS ABOUT ARTISTS: A Segue

  1. “an artist with gumption” that is what you are!

    And you have been an inspiration to me… to follow my dream where it might lead… to let go of silly outdated and just plain wrong assumptions of what an artist is… to find my own treasures deep down within and let those gifts free to make the world a better place… I can’t thank you enough for this very wonderful series of words… for being a mentor to the passion in my own soul.

    Thank you Luann!
    Enjoy the day!
    Erin

  2. Good morning Luann, again you have said exactly the right words to help me re-center and release a brief attack of the Self Doubts. I’m sure those must be an occupational hazard for all us creative people who show up day in and day out to do the work — because sometimes there are rewards and validations and other times there’s just shoveling out the stables! Sam certainly knew just what to say to Frodo to help him stay the course — and for today, you’re my Sam! Thanks for reminding me that what we do does put out goodness into the world. And congratulations for finding a way to use the word “segue” — most impressive wordsmithing, gal.

  3. Nancy

    You are fabulous! Methinks you listen too closely to your somewhat hypercritical friends instead of your own counsel.

    Just sayin’ ;-)

  4. I’m glad my myths are helping all of us break out! :^)

    Erin–thank YOU. Knowing my words have some good impact on others helps keep my writer’s soul on fire. :^)

    Jeanne, you are spot on re: creative types. I recently reread the book ART & FEAR by David Bayles and Ted Orland. I was astonished how much I missed the first time I read it. It really is eye-opening. Glad you are inspired to move past the scary stuff!

    Nancy, I don’t think I quoted my friend correctly–it was actually good advice, and true. Sometimes we hear the right insight at the wrong time, or we aren’t ready to hear it. Or we hear it with our pain instead of our joy, and it needs time to settle into the RIGHT place. If that makes sense. (And btw, Nancy always gives good advice!) :^)

  5. OK Luann, I’ll pull out my copy of Art & Fear again and give it another chance. The first time I read it, it didn’t really connect. Since you didn’t connect with it either the first time, and we both may be those “the sun will come up tomorrow” types, I’m willing to try again now that I’ve been on the front lines longer and see if it touches any chords this time around.

  6. Nancy

    Aw, thanks, buddy!

    Sorry if it sounded like I was picking on the pal you quoted in your post. Not my intention – was just thinking of a past convo we’d had. AND wanted to give you a big, supportive, “ya want me to beat ‘em up for ya?”

  7. Hello, again! I get what you’re saying, Luann, I really do. But right now I’m really in a down space.

    Filled with excitement, I opened up a space in Etsy back in September thinking that *there* I would find people who would see value in handspun hand-dyed yarn. They do, apparently–there are lots of other spinners on Etsy–but evidently they don’t see any value in mine.

    Lots of looks, a few hearts, no sales.

    One part of me is bugging me to get busy and make more yarn, but the other part of me is saying, “Why make MORE beautiful yarn that no one will want to buy? What’s the point of doing that, when no one wants what I’ve already made?”

    I’m sorry for dumping on you my own pity-party, but I need someone who is an artist and “gets it” to vent to. ..

    Maybe the Lord is trying to tell me to give up and become a boring housewife who grades papers and washes dishes and remembers when she used to make beautiful stuff. I don’t know.

  8. RK, no one will believe in what you are offering if you do not wholeheartedly believe in it yourself. Selling your creative ‘outpourings’ is far more complex than just “put it out there, and the customers will come”. You need to ask yourself, what is it that other folks with yarn to sell might be doing that is creating their success. Better photos? Better prices? Better descriptions? Perhaps Etsy isn’t even the best venue for you, as it is HUGE, and hard to get noticed ? It takes stamina and guts to sell art and your creative work, no doubt about it. That, and a deep conviction in the fact that what you are putting out to the world is a story that MUST be told.

    I am only saying these things because, as a teacher, and yes, I am one….teaching art….I am absolutely shocked at how easily most folks want to give up, or lose belief in what they want to do…

    Making art often comes easily, as our hearts simply sing the song….so we might expect our honest outpourings to find ‘new homes’ with the same ease….but that is the complex part, much more than people realize. And you will know that you are truly an artist, when you have this need to create, no matter what. Not measured by who buys, or affirms or appreciates, but because you HAVE to…

  9. Pingback: TEN MYTHS ABOUT ARTISTS #13: One Big Break is All You Need « Luann Udell

  10. Oh, yeah… I know about nothing happening instantly. I actually started this crazed yarn thing in 2003… I’ve been trying to get it off the ground for 6 years now, and I seem to be too darn stubborn to give up even when any sane person would have bailed out years ago.

    And, in fact, the first person to buy yarn from me on Etsy just did so this morning, and she mentioned me in her blog and in a tweet… So apparently I was just getting impatient and depressed too early…

  11. Nancy

    RK:

    As a former fiber artist, I can attest that most people don’t have a value for hand-dyed, hand-spun yarn and have no sense of the effort and overhead that go into it.

    I’m thinking Etsy is possibly the wrong venue for you. Sorry Etsy folks, but the yarn I see most on there (in the products) looks to be of the K-Mart variety.

    I’d be happy to share some of my thoughts with you. Luann could probably give you my address.

  12. Oh, RK, have you checked out Ravelry.com? I’m a member though I haven’t explored the site in-depth. They have people selling yarn there! I can gurantee they are people who appreciate hand-dyed, hand-spun yarn!!

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