Artists, more so than most occupations or careers, have an entire fleet of myths that dog them everywhere they turn. The problem is that these myths are based on just enough truth to make them feel real and determinant.
You know that stage of childhood when you put both hands over your eyes and were utterly convinced that no one could see you?
Sometimes, this seems to be the same effect our collective myths, about artists, have on the artists themselves.
Cover your eyes with a well-worn saying and no one can see you.
Or, maybe, the cover that one of these persistent myths provides gives you the grace period you need to catch your breath, as in “art: it’s not a real job!”
So you get one of those “real jobs,” and groom your talent at night and on weekends until you, and your art, are strong enough to throw the myth out–suitcase and all.
Myths That Serve Us
A myth is any persistent story we, as a culture, tell ourselves is a universal truth.
Some myths are long winded teachers of morality or spirituality, like “how the world began.”
Others are short sayings we repeat so often that they go unquestioned, accepted as a universal truth, like the infamous “starving artist.”
It seems that myths serve two essential functions in our common human experience:
1. In a single bite, they transmit a timeless truth (saves us time).
2. They unite a group, or groups, around a common understanding (keeps the tribe together).
Myths That Diss Us
Myths also trip us up when their veracity is outdated, or their premise flawed, because anything that saves us time and keeps the tribe together is pretty hard for our lizard brain to scoot up to the frontal lobe for challenge or dismissal.
The problem is that these myths are based on just enough truth to make them feel real and determinant.
And since a myth stakes its claim on us at a subliminal, unconscious level, we only have a ghost of a chance to shake free by paying attention to them.
1 – Listen to yourself as you think or speak about being an artist and catch yourself in the act of supporting, or sustaining, a myth. Becoming conscious is your first line of attack.
2 – Listen to others as they speak to you about being an artist and train yourself to speak up and challenge the myths out to silence your vision, while embracing the ones that serve you.
The “Un-offical” Contest
Artists, more so than most occupations or careers, have an entire fleet of myths that dog them everywhere they turn.
Here’s my list (I’ll bore you with the obvious):
- It’s all about the art.
- Artists are dreamers who won’t amount to anything.
- To be a true artist you must be completely original.
- Making art is not a real job.
- A real artist doesn’t “sell out,” i.e. become commercial.
- Artists are too right-brained to be good business people.
- Artists, by nature, are egotistical.
- Artists are loners.
How many can you come up with?
Note: This post is a re-worked, blog-friendly excerpt from my upcoming book “10 Zen Habits of Successful Artists.”
If you’d like to be on the waiting list for first notification when it comes out, click here.
And the prize for my “un-offical” contest is a free eBook version of “10 Zen Habits of Successful Artists” to whomever comes up with the most myths to add to my list.
Of course, being my blog and all, I get to decide if a submitted myth gets credited. I don’t have any guidelines except my own sense of what makes sense, if that makes sense.