How Genies Can Help Artists Survive

19 Mar

I sit here right now facing a blank page, feeling obligated to share something with all of you today because now I’m a “blogger.”  Over the past few days I’ve experienced more joy than I have in quite some time because of this new thing that I’ve decided to be, but today I face a blank with racing thoughts, wondering what do I have to say to anyone who takes the time to stop by?

I don’t want my words to fail, to disappoint or be wasteful.  I want to grab them and command them to convey brilliance, but today I can barely grasp them, today they are taunting me.

Barbara Streisand said that when she was first starting out she never experienced stage fright, but after Funny Girl (the movie that made her a super star) she had could barely bring herself to step out onto the stage.  Marilyn Monroe experienced the same sort of fright, spending hours in her dressing room, popping pills just to get through the day, and of course, Judy Garland suffered the same fate.

While I’m not putting myself in the same category as these women, it makes me wonder why artists suffer so?  Yes, these women are all actresses, but I know many artists who feel the same.

I’ve come up with many different answers to this conundrum: artists feel more, the need to create really represents a need to remake or escape from the world, they need applause, and they have different perspectives, are too illogical, the world doesn’t make space for their perspectives, the public consumes them.

All of the above is probably true, and impacts every creator differently.  Creation is giving a part of your unspeakable self away, even if you’re pretending to be someone else.

The public feels a release watching another’s emotions or understands their own perspective better through a snapped photo.  The public can learn empathy through story or wonder at the body through ballet.

At some point though, for many, all this giving and feeling leaves a soul drained, empty and trapped beneath the weight of expectation, especially as a person’s celebrity increases.

We are such consumptive beings and we think it’s just food, but we consume each other.  We stare at beauty and ask the beholder to give, we stare at talent and ask the talented to entertain, we ask the musician for their voice, the writer for their words, our parents to protect, and on and on it goes…

How does one survive?  Especially if you possess the special sixth sense of the artist – whether its sensitivity, talent or just an over-active right-brain?

Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love gave a wonderful Ted talk about destruction and the artist – for many commit suicide or suffer some tragic type of death.  Gilbert said that after the success of Eat, Pray, Love many people came up to her and said, “Aren’t you afraid that you’ll write another book that anyone will care about?  Aren’t you afraid you’re now doomed and it’s all downhill from here?”

Thus, was she afraid of crumbling under the weight of expectation and success?  Her answer was yes.

To deal with her fear, to find her own answers, she decided to take a look backward to see how the creative and society’s perspective had evolved.  She found her answer in the Greeks, as they believed that, “instead of the rare person ‘being’ a genius’, all of us ‘have’ a genius,” a little God above them that uses the person as a vehicle for their divine creativity.

Many, many people won’t agree with her, or I, for contemplating this idea, but as I look at artists before and contemporary, I wonder if maybe she’s right in providing this solution, bringing back the old to help make us anew.

Sometimes my words leave me, and I don’t know where they came from, sometimes I don’t even consciously know my own thoughts.  Sometimes I am gripped by an emotion through and I wonder how I can carry all of this inside of me.

If I look above me, and know it is outside of me, and that is my responsibility to just stay open, to let it flow, to know that some days my “genius” (or genii) is sleeping, and that it’s not my fault it’s not happening for me today then I can breathe easier.  That divine rascal is just being naughty.

The public will consume you, but what if they’re not really consuming You.  Instead, it’s that untouchable little god who hovers above you, who gives you something to reach for, so that each day, no matter the notoriety, no matter the applause, you must show up to receive its blessings.  You must live knowing that some days you will receive its gifts and other times you won’t, but at least you’re alive, at least it’s a possibility.

In case you want to view: Elizabeth Gilbert: A new way to think about creativity


One Response to “How Genies Can Help Artists Survive”

  1. Hiren P. (@bebopconnect) March 19, 2012 at 3:18 am #


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