Anderson Issues

Commentary on the Zeitgeist

Writer’s Block, Anyone?

Posted by amherst94 on November 8, 2011

Well fear no more! You see, Elizabeth Gilbert has answered the age old problem for all creative types:

(Quick side note: TED.com is an awesome site, with amazing speakers with a variety of interesting topics. I urge you all to check it out, find a few talks that you find interesting.)

http://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius.html

Okay, I’ll admit that when I first heard this talk, I thought she was a bit of a nut. I mean, she pretty much admits that she believes that artists of all sorts have a little faerie that follows them around everywhere, giving them little hints every now and then, which is the deciding factor of that artist’s success. And let’s face it, there’s no real way to make that sound credible. But let’s take a step back, and not fuss about the details of her speech, because there are some very good points that she brings up.

The first I want to talk about is the worry that we have for our artists. Like Elizabeth Gilbert I find it a bit disconcerting that we feel the need to question someone’s sanity when we hear that someone’s life dream is to grow up to be an artist. Personally, I think it’s a bit insulting. It’s true, that artistic careers aren’t the most prosperous, but that shouldn’t discredit them. The arts have a far greater personal investment than other careers, and they seem like they would be far more fulfilling when you make accomplishments. Why shouldn’t we encourage that feeling of fulfillment, rather than encourage the pursuit of economic success?

Second to address is the issue of the pressure we put on artists. Despite the fact that we look down on these careers (how many times have we heard or thought that painting isn’t a real job?), once an individual has made the leap, we expect them to be the best. Do we not? We expect them to have the next big hit, the next bestseller, the next Mona Lisa. And isn’t that a bit unfair? Like she says in the talk, her dad probably was never asked if he had chemical engineering block. But I would be willing to bet that no one ever pestered him when he didn’t come up with groundbreaking work during his career. So why is it that we expect our artists to make amazing, life-changing, age-defining works? We seem to have an issue grasping the concept of just a decent artist. Not stellar, not horrible, just decent, which a great majority of society ends up being.

And as a parting comment, after stepping back and thinking about it, I realized that in my own work, my creative process is a lot like how she describes it. It has no real sense to it, with long stretches of drudging through it, and brief moments of inspiration. I know that it doesn’t seem plausible, but who can really disprove that the source of inspiration is in fact a higher power? Just think on it, and hopefully we can take the concerns that Elizabeth Gilbert voices seriously.

One Response to “Writer’s Block, Anyone?”

  1. The American mindset seems to equate wealth and notoriety with success. While the labor of an artist may result in these traditional measures of success, what makes art one of the purest forms of labor is the very fact that it avoids these traditional modalities. True art is a form of expression – an expression of thought that then allows others the opportunity to think/interpret.

    Though a problem exists in that many “artists” express with the purpose of gaining notoriety and wealth. If an artist can remain true to expression then I think they are successful, irregardless of whether or not they gain notoriety or wealth.

    I’ll steal from another blog that steals from political theorist Hannah Arendt, who makes the argument that the artist represents the most human, human:

    “Arendt says that artists (homo faber operating at the highest capacity) redeem the best of human action and speech from destruction. Art saves the “great deeds” and “great words” of humanity from oblivion. It might be argued then, that art—techne—is redemptive. Without the work of the writer, the poet, the painter, the sculptor, the playwright, the musician, and other artists, the best of humanity would be forgotten.”

    http://therelativeabsolute.wordpress.com/

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