Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Should Artists Really Starve?

You know, I write a lot on this blog about tips and techniques and sometimes I even post topics for discussion in the hopes that some one will discuss something with me! Alas, it never works! But when I first started this blog I had said that I wanted to record the good and bad times, because when I DO finally make it into the shiny world of "hey I recognize her, she's that popular author will blue hair and maybe a drinking problem", I wanted people to know I struggled. That I didn't just 'make it over night'.

Being a writer is hard

Staying positive is very hard 

And only posting about the good things or glossing over stuff isn't what I want. I'm a over sharer. I love people and I love talking and in general I'm just a little ball of sunshine wrapped in a double rainbow and sprinkled with pixi stick dust most of the time. But when it comes to writing I suffer from the same maladies all artists do. I swing from exalted highs to depressive lows. I judge my work more critically than a judge in a dog show. I hold myself to extremely hard and high goals that aren't always surmountable given my 5 foot stature.

Let me be very very real with you. Although I try to be real all the time (for instance, I am this sarcastic in real life.). I'm going to admit some things that make me very embarrassed because I want you to know that I understand where you're coming from when you struggle.

I'm just now 30 years old. Gaaaaaaasp. I live with my mother because she's helping support me (house wise) while I try to make it as an author (and because Southern California is the worst place to try and live if you're not a millionaire. No joke. Anywhere in California, actually.). I work with children every day as my job when I'm not writing, and barely make enough to pay all my bills and then some.

All of these things (except watching kids, because I love kids) embarrass me. I sometimes feel like a fake artist because shouldn't REAL writers be living in a poverty? Shouldn't I be broke as hell living under a bridge or in a tenement and begging for food while I wait for my time in the sun and writing my stories on paper napkins?

And that's the problem.

Writers are expected to live in shitty circumstances--perhaps even encouraged to.

'You're not a real writer unless your financially and emotionally damaged and struggling.'

Seriously. That's what people think. Now, that isn't to say I didn't have a rough childhood (I did). That isn't to say I didn't have quite a few rough times in my twenties (I did). But I think we need to stop saying that to be a good writer you need to suffer in your life constantly. HORRIBLY suffer. I don't think that's fair.

I don't think a person who's trying to make it as a writer or artist who is given an opportunity of some stability or emotional support should be told 'then you're not a real artist.'


I get where they're coming from. To understand people you need to be able to feel the pain or joy a person will feel. Sure. But by the same token does that mean you need to shoot up drugs so that you can write a druggie in your book? Writers (and artists of all sorts) by their very nature are sensitive. We're more able than the average person to put ourselves in others shoes and sympathize.

But I still feel that I'm not suffering enough for my art. I can go through days (sometimes even a week or four) where I wallow and think my writing is crap and I'm crap and I'm never going to make it and who did I think I was kidding? I go through days and weeks where I'm doing great and I push through it and don't let it bog me down. But then I feel bad. I feel really bad. Because shouldn't I be suffering more? Shouldn't I be scrimping and saving to feed myself and my starving cat (that I'll probably have to eat)?

This is what people think artists should do to be allowed to really 'make it'. We already suffer emotionally all the time by our nature. But we must also have tragic pasts that we rise above and need to be living in horrible conditions so that we can 'deserve' it.


Why do we need to suffer to deserve something?

Living in a country where 'doing everything by yourself is the only way you deserve anything' is a terrible thing. As much as it annoys me to mention her name, Stephanie Meyers (Twilight saga) got famous because she had luck and found a good agent. She relied on some one. She also had a husband and kids and a stable income before she was famous. But people dislike her a little because she didn't appear to have 'suffered' and just got a lucky break.

And by the way, to those who say "well look at JK Rowling, she was living on food stamps and writing on napkins!" do you think she would chosen that? Do you think she wanted it? Do you think if her mom or dad offered her a place to live she wouldn't have taken it? Wouldn't you?

Having been in circumstances where you don't have a single person to rely on is an incredibly scary, depressing, overwhelming thing. I've been there several times and I wish I hadn't. It didn't help build my character or make me 'stronger'. It made me stressed and depressed and probably took 2 years off my life for no reason.

So what do you guys think? Should artists really starve? Do they need to have crummy lives and be living in dire straights before you think they 'deserve it'? Or is it okay for them to be emotionally and physically happy and fulfilled?

This author wants to know!

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