Are you a tortured artist? Am I?
Wikipedia defines a tortured artist as "a stock character and stereotype who is in constant ferment due to frustrations with art and other people. The tortured artist feels alienated and misunderstood due to what they perceive as the ignorance or neglect of others who do not understand them, and the things they feel are important. They sometimes smoke, experience sexual frustration and appear overwhelmed by their own emotions and inner conflicts. The tortured artist is often mocked in popular culture for being attention seeking, narcissistic and unable or unwilling to make plans or just averse to happiness and fun. Often demonstrating self-destructive behaviors."
The wiki definition seems a bit humorous but perhaps it is actually accurate. So many of the artists that I know feel misunderstood; they are always comparing themselves to others, always wanting more attention and adoration and when they do not get these things to their satisfaction they rebel or shut down. Being an artist is such a weird job. It is so easy to give up and simmer in our own brooding stew of dissatisfaction.
What if I told you I think it is okay that you are "tortured?" What if it is okay to be a "starving artist?" So many books for artists these days make it seem like you should balk at these old antiquated ideas. They say today's artist can have your cake and eat it too. They say the starving artist is an old out-dated myth or paradigm. They say there is no room for "tortured" because you are too busy living the dream.
While this can be very encouraging, I also think it can put unrealistic pressure and expectations on one's self and art career.
Being an artist is a hard job. It is a job that does not always pay well and is erratic and unpredictable. Being an artist can be a very insular position, full of judgment and qualifiers for yourself and the work you produce. Over time I have decided that being an artist is not a choice. I think you are birthed into this position and hopefully learn to rectify and embrace it over a life time.
It is not all bad of course, but some days being an artist can seem like a form a torture. I know you come here for inspiration and hope, but I also think it my responsibility to be honest. This position has plenty of hardships and one can find themselves riddled with self doubt.
However, I am forever and always will be an artist. I will question, I will doubt and I will envy, but I will also feel great pride in the work I produce and I will always help other artists find this path, and attempt to make it as comfortable as I can for myself and those that follow. This position, this career, has many thankless tasks, and we will be at times misunderstood by ourselves and others.We will also feel unparalleled heights and be a part of unprecedented beauty and awe, that we can manufacture all on our own. I feel that is why we put up with the occasional torture, because the heights that we achieve can not be matched. The mythologies that we create are sacred and unique.
So, if you are feeling tortured, frustrated and misunderstood, don't feel the need to put a happy face on it right away and please know you are not alone. Keep fighting, keep trying, and give yourself a break. The lows can be dark, cold, and lonely but the highs are pure light and love and all of your own creation.
This post is dedicated to all the artists struggling on this path and questioning this way of living.There is something that you felt once, that was strong enough to sustain you and keep you here. Hold on to that and keep fighting and you will find your way back eventually. This will never be an easy path but it is worth it. Onwards and Upwards...