Who is an Artist?
I was once told, and rather smugly, by a woman in California,
Alex, you’re not an Artist.
It made my blood boil, but was there truth to what she was saying? After all, I wasn’t producing much art at the time.
I said back, rather defensively, I see life through the eyes of an artist.
I wasn’t able to fully articulate it at the time, but I was trying to differentiate the doing of an artist with the being of an artist.
It did get under my skin, though. And whenever that happens, there’s always something to look at.
Ultimately, I think there is the Artist-in-potentia and the Artist-in-action.
Potential vs. Actual.
ALL of us are Artists-in-potentia. We are born with a mind that envisions, hands that can shape our world, eyes that see, ears that listen and nerves that feel.
But for one reason or another, few of us make a concerted effort to focus our potential energy long enough to turn it into sustained action.
You know, the usual suspects.
I was walking along the Chattahoochee River about a year ago with a good friend of mine, Eric Saperston. He started Live in Wonder (www.liveinwonder.com) and helped produce the documentary, The Journey, about going after your dreams.
I told him about some of my struggles working for myself in the financial industry, and how I was neglecting my passion for writing. Eric reminded me: You only live once. You gotta live your passion.
In that moment, I realized that he was right. I had to write. That didn’t mean I had to give up my financial career.
I had to do them both.
And that’s exactly what I did. I started writing.
I am lucky enough to have an artist as a roommate (Artist-in-action). When one of his good friends and a fellow Artist, Miguel Dominguez (whose art is featured on my website), would come to our place and paint, it spurred me to get my writing going. While they painted, I sat at our kitchen table and wrote.
I got in a groove with my writing. Out of the blue, a few months later, one of my articles went viral.
I say this, not to brag, but to point to the power of sustained effort.
An Artist (-in-action) isn’t an Artist because of the quality of his or her work, however.
I am no more of a Writer now than when I was writing in relative anonymity.
Succumbing to my short-lived virtual-fame, and thinking that I had made it on the big stage, I thought, I can finally call myself a Writer.
I was so wrong.
An Artist is an Artist because of effort.
Our Muses love work. That’s our gift to the Divine, and that evokes their creative assistance.
In his unbelievable book, The WAR of ART, Steven Pressfield says,
This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.
Our Muse doesn’t ask for perfection, talent or even quality.
The Muse wants one and only one thing: our dedication to our Art.
That’s all we can control–showing up and doing the work. The rest comes as a gift.
Ultimately, you and you alone get to answer the question,
Are you an Artist?
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