Embracing Your (Messy, Painful, Incredible) Journey as an Artist

Oct 12, 2018

3 minutes

I’ve created lyrics + songs as a singer; movies + plays as an actor and stage producer; photographs as a model + photographer; articles as a writer; 2 published books as an author; Yoga sequences as a certified Yoga teacher … etc. While I got paid for much of it, I’ve never considered myself an “artist.”

My mind imagines an artist as a painter or a sculptor, using their tools, experience, and creative instinct to mold their medium to match the vision in their mind (or Soul, for that matter).

Do you consider yourself an artist?

If you ask Steven Pressfield, he’d probably say yes, you are an artist.

In his latest, fiercely to-the-point book titled “[easyazon_link identifier=”1936891549″ locale=”US” tag=”vtv00-20″]The Artist’s Journey[/easyazon_link],” Pressfield summarizes the essence of the artist’s lifelong journey, along with how to survive it with (most of) your sanity in-tact.

Much like the journey of being an entrepreneur, the artist’s journey involves nearly constant innovation and growth – even if it doesn’t feel that way when you stare at the blank page, or wall, or computer screen.

Pressfield emphasizes that every artist (you, me, all of us) have a particular subject, even if we don’t know it yet. During our artist’s journey, we’ll re-discover our subject (which has been with us all along) and gift the world with what we produce – no matter how incomplete it may feel.

Speaking from personal experience, if I could go back and re-write my first two published books, I’d absolutely do it. That being said, I wrote those books at a different point in my artist’s journey. I am no longer the same person, with the same knowledge or the same perspective as I was when I first wrote them. They’re good, but not great. I’ll do better with the next book. I’ll continue to do better with the book after that. That is one of the vital essences of the artist’s journey.

In a rare move, Pressfield starts to dip into the spiritual/metaphysical in “[easyazon_link identifier=”1936891549″ locale=”US” tag=”vtv00-20″]The Artist’s Journey[/easyazon_link].” Personally, I would have been surprised if he had NOT ventured into that realm because creative work involves something that can’t be completely explained with words – but he does a damn good job of trying.

I don’t believe the artist knows what he or she wishes to express. The artist is being driven from a far deeper and more primal source than the conscious intellect. It is not an overstatement, in my view, to declare that the artist has no idea what he’s doing … The artist is not expressing himself. He is discovering himself. – Steven Pressfield

Hallelujah, Mr. Pressfield. This (hesitant to call herself an) artist agrees wholeheartedly.

The majority of my time spent reading this book was me nodding my head in unburdened agreement.

Pressfield also shares a great list of foes the artist will encounter, along with the skills the artist will develop by encountering said foes head-on. For me, these lists were a direct reflection of everything I’ve experienced as an author battling depression, anxiety, and horribly low self-worth for over two decades. As with all the best books, I can’t help but wonder what my life would have been like if I had read this book when I was 14, instead of 34.

Tangible, quantifiable, ethereal, spiritual, metaphysical … like any creative pursuit you choose, it doesn’t have to make SENSE, it simply needs to happen.

Whatever is in you – whatever screenplay, painting, song, computer program, book, sculpture, building … etc. – it’s trying to crawl its way out of you. The amount of resistance is up to you. Breakdowns lead to breakthroughs, but the creative journey need not be an unholy rollercoaster.

Let go. Resist less. Let the work flow from your Self, not your Ego. 

Do not focus on what will make money. Do not focus on what will make someone else happy or proud. Focus on creating. Again and again and again.

I’m saying this intentionally because, as you may have noticed, it’s been months since my last writing. My original goal (even while in college again) was to write one post per week. Easy, right? Clearly not. Not with my Ego overthinking everything.

Time to take Pressfield’s advice and let it flow. Think less, create more. Do not fear what will come out on the screen, the page, or the canvas. 

All of this is easy to say/write/type, but hard to put into practice – and that’s the POINT. That’s part of the artist’s journey. You and I are both on this journey. While our individual journey will never be exactly the same, I support you because the journey bruises us both.

If you want to support yourself through the journey, do yourself a favor and read (and re-read) “[easyazon_link identifier=”1936891549” locale=“US” tag=”vtv00-20″]The Artist’s Journey[/easyazon_link].”

Photo by Chris Curry on Unsplash

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