The Myth of The Starving Artist

I heard a couple talking about writers and their perceptions of having a story to tell.

The man said, "Can you believe they're that pompous? To think that your story is so important. Look at me! I'm a sad artist! Read my story!"

The woman nodded her head, and said, "I know, right? They're so whiny, and think they're so special."

I ate my ravioli, and thought of my response to their words.

Artists can be perceived as arrogant deviants, usually with a mental illness, who will most-likely live undiscovered and poor. So, what does it mean to have a story to tell? One of many purposes of art is to concisely and visually represent the human condition. Emotions and intangible elements of life can't really be described, yet I find artists are challenged to depict humanity as best they can. The challenge itself is invigorating, and to spend a lifetime to perfect a craft is something many can relate with. 

A simple premise of art can also be to create beauty. Maybe there is no underlying philosophical framework behind every work of art, and some art is just created to be enjoyed for its aesthetic. 

Being an artist is being a craftsman. The value of this craft is just (imo) lower than it should be. We have this weird polarity in this culture's appreciation of the arts. Starving artists go unrecognized and become famous only after a tragic death, or a series of deviant behaviors. Artists who 'make it' are criticized for selling out if they produce pop-art. This polarity can be better supported with this article. It seems that the more eccentric an artist is, the more enjoyable and valuable his or her work is. So, does that mean if one is to pursue creative endeavors, it is an automatic branding of eccentricity and mental illness? 

This perception can inhibit many potential artists from discovering their inner creative beast. This perception can also promote some prohibited boundary crossing with starving artists, successful artists, and non artists. 

Perhaps it is simply judgement on how a person chooses to live his or her life. Stay-at-home parents are criticized for not contributing enough to the family income, and women in their thirties and forties are criticized for not prioritizing having a family if they choose to pursue their careers. Writers can be criticized for thinking their stories are more important than others'. We all have a story to tell, each with its lessons and powerful bursts of pain, laughter, and empowerment. Some of us are better storytellers than others. Some writers choose to write because it is their contribution to the collective of our human condition. 

Stories to a writer may be similar to children to a parent. It is the potential of having a legacy, and requires continuous passion, energy, and commitment. It can simply be a different choice in life to pursue an artist's dream of creating an iconic piece of work, and for now, is accompanied by stigmas of eccentricity, starving, and mental illness. 

Additional Reading

First two photos from GCS Clothing Store, Santa Ana

Lovely tree drawn by J. Bennett :)