Thursday, May 17, 2007

The starving artist—fact or myth?

Today on our way to Dick's for a very quick lunch, my daughter and I were talking about hunger. To be clear, we were comparing notes on the "fifteen minutes until lunch time" hunger or the "gee I didn't eat enough breakfast hunger"—not the "I don't know where my next meal is coming from" hunger or the "I haven't eaten in days" desperation. That is an important conversation on any day of the week.

But we were discussing the ways in which even a little bit of hunger can make you grumpy and unfocused—how while it's zapping your energy, it's distracting you. How to think? How to think creatively? How to write?

I told her my theory of about the starving artist, and she asked, "What's that?" I tried to explain about the garret and suffering for your art and the meals that I so foolishly skipped when I was foolish and young and somewhat financially challenged and trying to be a modern dancer.

We both agreed that was a pretty poor idea, and I explained that I thought that the idea of the starving artist—however popular and romantic—had to be false, because when you're hungry, it's just too hard to get your best work done.

It makes me wonder about all of the real, harsh hunger in the world, and about all the creative thinking and problem solving and writing we as a world must be missing out on.

Then I said that I wanted to write something, and she said, "Write about that."

Does deprivation provide a necessary impetus to unleash some creative power—keeping you mentally, creatively lean—or is it the effect of choosing expressions that might not in our culture and society be financially lucrative, and choosing to hone in on those even if they don't pay? If you get a steady day job and groceries, are you selling out?

What do you think about this idea of starving or otherwise suffering for your art?

1 comment:

aka Leonardo Likes Gulls said...

Hi Joannie,

This is interesting to me. Having a hearty appetite I never bought into the "starving artist" thing. And I'm not much on suffering either. However, for me, "sacrificing" is word that comes to mind, I sacrifice other things--some material luxuries--so I can live my life as a writer.

The interesting thing about this is that by "sacrificing" a life that society says I should have or be living, I'm ultimately more fulfilled. To me, being an artist means choosing to walk different in a world where many are walking the same way.

Great post.