Struggling Artist?!

My favorite thing about music is the lyrics. I find song lyrics so inspiring and emotional. Imagine what it feels like to a songwriter, especially a singer songwriter who stands in front of a crowd of 50,000 people waving their hands and singing your lyrics back to you.  The emotions etched on the faces of the crowd and the feelings that come from understanding your poetry. What could be better than that?

When I’m writing a scene that’s what I strive for, although, I know I still lack the skill. I try to immerse myself in it and feel what I’m writing but I just can’t seem to relay that into words yet. I think its hit and miss really, sometimes I’m on, but most of the time it’s sorta flat.

I have to wonder if it’s me not able to break through my shell. I walk through life with a smile and try to focus on the positive. It is a survival technique and very useful most of the time (but not all the time). However, I have to wonder if it’s holding me back. I just cannot force myself to be the struggling artist.

I had this conversation with my good friend Laura and she believes all good great artists are haunted by something. She’s convinced it’s what makes them creative or gives them their drive. As if pain is their muse. What does this say about me, the writer? What if I don’t want to struggle? What if I don’t want to be miserable? What if I don’t want to sit around and feel sorry for myself then write pitiful entries in my journal? What if I don’t want to be haunted by bad memories and things that have gone wrong in my life? The main struggle in my life is trying to write good convincing fiction that draws people in.

Do great non-struggling artist exist? What do you think about the theory of all great artist being haunted?

26 thoughts on “Struggling Artist?!

  • I can only comment for myself, but I feel I write my best stuff out of pain. For some reason, I just don’t care about the walls or the falseness when I am hurting, so I think my words are more honest.

    When I am not in pain, I am trying in my head to get back to that honest place in my writing.

    So I suppose I am a bad person to ask, since I feel like I am the “struggling artist.” Well, struggling, anyway. Artist? Not so sure about that.

  • Well,historically, the percentage of suicides among poets is quite a bit higher than among the rest of the population. And we can all rattle of the names of A LOT of writers who have committed suicide or have or had extraordinarily difficult lives.

    I think anyone who lives a real life has pain. I certainly have had my share of it — and for a while, I wrote about some of my terror. Was it eloquent? Don’t know — maybe some of it. Was it emotional? Absolutely. Did it provide catharsis in any way, make me feel better? Absolutely NOT.

    So it’s not the kind of writing I am choosing to do now. And I think my writing can be pretty flat perhaps as a result, which I try to compensate for with humor. I have no pretensions of becoming a great writer though. I’d love to walk along the beach some summer day and see a couple of people slathering on sunscreen and settling in to one of my paperback novels and some PBR.

    Russian angst. I guess I’m trying to escape it with my writing, not revel in it. I don’t want to be more miserable through writing. Or through reading, for that matter. If I know a kid dies in a novel, for example, I won’t read it. (I did slog my way through The Lovely Bones, but — really, never again.)

    So I never answered your question. I guess we’re all haunted in some ways; we all have different ways of dealing with it. I’d like to think that really good writing can come out of tapping into joy as well as into pain.

    Okay: Now go read some of Mary Oliver’s poetry. Maybe from Why I Wake Early.

    • Uhhh. I don’t know if this is kosher or not, but I just spent all my ‘blog time’ allotment responding to Dayner’s thought-provoking post.

      So I’m just gonna copy it over to my own blog where I can add a little something more to it.

      I hope that’s okay and that the Blog Goddess doesn’t mind!!

    • Yuck – ‘revel’ was definitely not the right word when talking about angst. ‘Remain’ is better. Sorry.

  • […] want to thank Dayner and her thought-provoking post for getting my brain rolling this morning. This post was initially a response (okay, it’s not […]

  • When asked what I think about such things, my brain cringes. After the initial cringe, it goes blank.

    I’ve no strong opinion on what motivates writers to write but as for myself, I think I’ve lived at least a somewhat haunted life. I suspect that the pressure cooker of memories of my past need release. I kept so much of my pain, guilt, etc. bottled up within me for such an endless span of my life that writing (even when it has nothing to do with what has caused me these negative emotions) acts as a depressurizer.

    If that makes sense, great. If not, I apologize for rattling on. (I’ve had a cold for a few days and feel sort of odd from the antihistamine I’m taking).

    • I think the reason I started writing was because it acted like a decompressurizer for me too. (Although I’m not sure if decompressurizer is a word but I think you all know what we mean) 🙂 Once I started writing it felt so good I couldn’t stop. When I’m writing an emotional scene I feel those emotions and I have made myself cry several times (my husband too when he reads it) but when I put it aside for months at a time then go back it has less of an impact. I’m not giving up, the more I learn and the more I write the better my writing will be. RIGHT?

  • Dayner, this is just my humble opinion, so take it with a grain of salt:

    Although past trauma can be a motivating catalyst to find depth in your writing, I think the bigger issue is finding out those things that you are most passionate about.

    Life is the living example of universal truth. Seek out those things that are most important to you and you will find the passion in your voice. There are times when I sit to write I actually make myself cry when I reach the line or paragraph or even chapter that embodies the moment of catharsis.

    When I have those moments, I know I have struck a chord – some emotion or condition of life that I am passionate about. I note them mentally and let my subconscious go to work on them. In time, I have found those subjects resurface in my prewriting and generate the best ideas and those ah-hah moments that make the writing come to life.

    Writing is mostly subconscious. Ponder and thought may spark the passion you are seeking, but I don’t think that once it is discovered you can force it to fit into a specific range of emotions.

    It is more about finding the theme of your work — the moral or motif behind it that you are passionate about. In fiction this is not directly told, but rather shown through your characters and their story.

    Theme basically boils down to some emotional aspect tied to the human condition and can almost always be expressed as a cliche’. Here is a list of possible theme’s that may help you find what you are passionate about or at least help you begin to generate ideas.

    *Everyone is created equal
    *Love conquers all
    *No man is an island
    *The strong survive
    *Embrace life
    *Live for today
    *There is no place like home

    When you find that passion your writing can’t possibly be flat. (Not that I think yours is anyway – but I understand what you are saying – we all can improve. I’m on the same quest.)

    Also, one last note: Don’t write what will make everyone else happy – write makes you happy and it will show!

    I apologize for taking up so much of your page :c)

    • I just want to say the one thing I learned in this past year is like what DS says, don’t write to make others happy. Write what’s true for you. If it’s happy, great! If not, that’s fine, too. Just write honestly and I think others will identify with that.

    • You know what? You’re pretty darn good at this. I need to start paying you for the wonderful advice!

      “Life is the living example of universal truth. Seek out those things that are most important to you and you will find the passion in your voice.”

      I’m going to print this quote and paste above my work station.

  • I definitely agree with the comments on writing what is true for you — no one else. And that everyone’s passion may be different, and expressed differently, yet there is a common core to the human experience that can come across in writing.

    I just know that for me, working through my rawest and most painful times through writing doesn’t help me. I’m not sure what does, really, besides time, exercise, and meditation.

    In the short term, it’s big, gulping sobs and the hope that I can deceive those beings who are depending on me to be strong enough into thinking I am strong enough…

    • “In the short term, it’s big, gulping sobs and the hope that I can deceive those beings who are depending on me to be strong enough into thinking I am strong enough…”

      You just said a mouth full right there. Welcome to the life of every mother, wife, daughter–woman!

    • Someone once told me, “You are so strong – such a survivor.”

      My answer to them was simply, “I’m not strong. I just didn’t have any other choice.”

      That took me down off the pedistool they had me on that I did not deserve. I freed myself from the burden of having to appear stronger than I really was.

      Okay – I’ve got to get back to work!

      • I think it’s all relative to the situation. When my dad had heart surgery my stepmom fell apart which is so unlike her. When I saw her breakdown I realized I needed to be there for her instead of vice-versa. Where she’s always been around for me when I needed someone.

  • Hey–Cool quote up there in the corner — I know that chick!

    I’m honored, humbled, blushing and so gosh darn happy that I made the honorary quote box!

    Thank you..

    • I’m going to start collecting our good quotes for future reference. Glad you like it!

      • That is a great idea. Especially when we are famed published authors and need material for our dust jackets. I’ll know where to come when I can’t think of an intelligent thing to say. :c)

        • I may even go back to old posts and sort through for some good quotes. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before!!

          • What a great idea!

            And DS — “when I can’t think of an intelligent thing to say.” AS IF……….

  • Crusie said something on her blog one day that stuck with me. I think she was talking about how writing bad mothers into her stories was cathartic for her. Not the mother thing, but that writing can be cathartic. I don’t thing all writers have to be damaged goods (although, if you force me to be honest on that one, I’d probably tell you that I believe all people are damaged goods in one form or another), but we all have issues we need to work out. What a great way to work them out, in a story! Cheaper than role-playing in a therapy session!

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