To continue on the theme of irritations that the artist will come across, consider the people who are not artists and yet want to be. We will call them for simplicity The Wannabes.These are different from The Dilettante in that they are not yet actively pursuing a Creative Life, rather they are in an interim period, which they may never leave.
But both the Wannabe and the Dilettante want the same thing:The Creative Life which is entirely different from being an actual artist.
The Creative Life is a media generated myth of a life where you get to wear whatever clothes you want and have coffee all the time. You can stay up all night with interesting, funky people and get up late and you have the respect of not only your peers but all the suits that you are trying to get away from. You never have to work but sometimes you get to sit around painting or writing in your massive, cool, studio and it is all great fun.
The myth handily overlooks many facts:painting or writing is mostly not fun, there is no-one to stay up late with as everyone has absconded to suburbia, artists also have bills and often end up burned out from having to have a real job(if they are lucky)as well as using all their spare time for their art.
In middle age you meet these Wannabes all the time. As distinct from the middle-aged Artist with spouse and family who had to put their creativity on hold for a while, The Wannabe never really had the urge when they were younger. Often they would have openly eschewed art and artists.
But now The Wannabe has finished rearing their children, time is being freed up, they have achieved all sorts of things in their chosen career yet still they feel empty and so they direct their laser-like glares at those who they perceive to be living the life of Reilly, the person who has spent the last few decades living in poverty and achieving little or nothing in concrete terms:The Struggling Artist.
There are many ways to be creative and in truth it is hard to take a breath without being creative, but try telling the Wannabe that.
As an artist and knowing many artists over the course of my life I know what these Wannabes don’t want to know, that the only reason someone is an artist is because they HAVE to be. We are miserable when create but even more miserable when we don’t.
To add to the misery, during the Celtic Tiger here in Ireland, many Wannabes with the backing of money, connections and experience gained in other arenas, and spouses and houses acquired in another time, launched fiscally successful, if uninspired, careers as artists.
But, you know, c’est la vie, to each his own path and most of this is water off the ducks back to me unless, as happens every now and again, things get personal as it did last week.
I was having coffee with someone I consider to be a dear friend when she mentioned in passing that as a creative person I had a Type Four personality in the world of Enneagrams, in which she fervently believes, as I do not. Type Four she said considered themselves to be special, above others.
At the time these words skimmed by me and it was only when I was alone that I wondered what she was saying:that she thought that I thought I was better than her?And immediately the friendship, in my mind, began to look a little different, began to tilt. And all this because I paint. I write.
It was a small incident in the larger scheme of things and it will pass but it has certainly made me reassess our friendship. Why we are even friends. I like her but does she like me?Can she like me if she thinks that I think that I am better than her?
Like many others she has convinced herself that being an “artist” will fill the hole she feels inside, the God-Shaped hole that any person of intelligence has. The Creative Life, which she thinks I have, will be her saviour and because I have it and she doesn’t I must think I am better than her.
She, like many of us, including me, cannot be grateful for what she has:A house, a husband, children, early retirement and instead seems to want the life of an artist. Well she could have mine for free:no partner, absent friends, no house, no money and an increasingly uncertain life.
If you are yearning to be an artist, stop and think about what its it you REALLY want. Consider the possibility that what the media is selling you about the Creative Life is, in fact, a load of cobblers. If , after that, you really want to be an artist, just do it instead of aiming your little arrows at someone who is really busy… just doing it.
We are all here in this life to be grateful for what we have for the short time we are here. Creativity is a matter of course not something to be grabbed at. The grass is always greener. And remember…
the city dumps fill
the junkyards fill
the madhouses fill
the hospitals fill
the graveyards fill
-Bukowski, Alone With Everybody.