Why Must I Suffer For My Art?

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85HAaahh… the age old sentiment that one must suffer for one’s art! It’s the idea that the artist is as morose as a cold winters day, sitting in their own dark thoughts as they create their masterpiece. That the artist is poor in materialistic possessions, owning merely a quill and leather bound journal to record his thoughts and ideas.

Ok, maybe that was too far but you get the gist right? As artists, it is assumed that we give up on every other aspect of our lives to pursue our artistic dreams. I wonder how helpful or healthy that actually is?

Let’s talk a bout me for a second, I’m an artist. I’m a dancer, choreographer, singer, actor and writer. I really did throw all my eggs into one basket and yes, sometimes shit gets tough. I fall into the expected stereotype of being a depressed recluse hiding away from society because my inspiration has run thin. I question my life, its goals and its meaning on a daily basis. Everywhere I look is an idea for choreography, a story, a script or song. Everywhere else I look is proof of the suffering human condition and that just takes me right back to questioning life’s existence…*sigh*…it can be a vicious cycle.

See the thing is, I don’t know where it became on trend to tell young artists they must devote their whole life to their art without ever coming up for a breath of fresh air. I completely and utterly understand that in order to achieve something great you must devote time and energy to it. It’s the whole “you must give up all other passions and hobbies if you want to be a great artist” thing that really irks me. Well, far be it for me to offer a differing opinion but I thought that art was life. Please tell me how it makes sense to turn your back on life in order to create art. Can you truly call yourself an artist if you aren’t truly living?

Let’s explore this further because it is something that has been on my mind for a while and as you all know I must share these things for the sake of my own sanity. I always thought the goal was to live in a balanced and healthy way. A balance of study, party, work and love. If you merely focus on one aspect whether that be only study or only your artistic goals how can this be healthy. Here’s another issue, what happens when you can’t stand your art anymore or when you are really at your wits end with perceived failures? People tell you that you must persevere and that you must give up every other aspect of your life in order to achieve your greatness and your success. How can you truly be an artist if you have a part time job or enjoy baking?! Rubbish, absolute and utter rubbish my friends. We find the inspiration for our art in our every day life, remember that.

There was a stage not so long ago where I was ready to throw in the towel, that’s it, just shut the door on my art. I’d had enough. I’d had enough of no auditions, no jobs, no opportunities and no “luck”. I’d been doing everything right from taking classes to online workshops to weekly singing lessons and even writing my own work! I had spent money on new photos, new footage and a website. I was there devoting everything I possibly had to my art and my goals. I turned around with a look of desperation saying “Well here I am world! I’m ready and have devoted time, money and energy into my craft without coming up for a breath of air”… *cue crickets and tumbleweed*. Well, let’s just say I ended up imploding and hating my art.

To hate one’s art is to hate oneself. It is like ripping out a part of yourself and leaving it there to die. Dramatic I know, but I am an artist after all. I think back to how I perceived my situation and realise that my art did nothing bad to me. It was there, it was faithful and it was loving. It was I who had the problem, I simply couldn’t stand my art any longer. Let me tell you something about feeling this way, you question every waking moment and every single thing you do. At 26 you can feel as if you have wasted your prime years of study and work and think “why the f*#k did I do this to myself”.  I want to tell you that it does not have to be this way, you do not need to suffer for your art. Yes, you need to work at it, try things and then fail and try again but you do not need to suffer. Yes, you will have times of ultimate shitness where things will just seem to be going wrong and you might lack necessary inspiration to create but you do not need to suffer.

I redirected my energy, I focused on my studies and my relationships. I focused on life and on actually enjoying it. I set life goals instead of career or artistic goals and boy was that a breath of fresh air! Lo and behold I went running back to my art, begging it for a second chance and promising to be better. I have found that spark again. That spark and that passion for creating and imagining. I have no expectations, I am putting no pressure on myself and I feel great about that. I won’t let myself sit there and agonise over the fact that I haven’t achieved the goals I set for myself at 21. I will live, I will grow and I will be a better artist for it.

Don’t let people tell you that you must suffer for your art. Focus on what inspires you whether that is baking, gardening or your part time job. Focus on positive relationships with friends, family and colleagues. Study something, anything at all. Nurture your mind and keep it sharp. These are the things that will feed you as an artist and in turn you won’t feel forced to suffer and feel forced “do things” that you are “supposed” to do in order to succeed.

Love yourself, love your art and stay happy. That is what I have learnt on my arduous journey as an artist and a creative.

Stay classy XX