The Not-So-Secret Struggle of the Starving Artist

To the most artistically inclined and brilliant creative people, often everyday life can seem like a struggle. Therefore, the stereotype emerges that it is much harder for artistic people to maintain normal mental health. There are many complex reasons for the creative struggle. It is easy to romanticize the idea of a struggling artist, but when confronted by one in real life, most people are quick to condemn their lifestyle. There is a stigma that the creative may be struggling with their behavioral health, or are unable to keep their life together.

In the stereotype, the struggling artist is a day-dreamer; brilliant in his aptitude to understand the complex and his ability to synthesize life’s strangeness in his medium. But the kind of personality that accompanies that sort of brilliance is not so easily accepted by most. We see these people crowded into coffee shops each day– perhaps they don’t work, perhaps they can’t work, no matter– we’re certainly sure they lack work ethic. Who has time to spend hours in a coffee shop working on a manuscript?

Who has time for art, anyway?

Who has time for art, anyway?

Creative people do not have a harder time getting their life together, but they do have a harder time being understood by others. Their priorities might be different than most people’s. Choosing interesting books, learning about culture, gaining inspiration, or painting dots correctly may be at the top of their priority list, perhaps above biology prerequisites, the stock market, 401K’s, or even politics. All of the artistic priorities are legitimate, and also very serious. Artists are quite frankly sick of everyone they know trying to “fix” them, and implying that they are not good enough being the way they are, or not serious enough. Being treated this way over and over when in fact you are very serious can be quite maddening.

Artistic people with good outlets for their creativity are very stable, healthy, happy people. They are usually kind and considerate because of their own sensitive nature. Their creativity and artistic talent is their greatest gift, but sometimes it took years of hard work to hone. They may not have shown much “promise” to the outside world until they were further along in their life and work. To those that were supportive to them during that time, they are very grateful.

There is an unfortunate tendency for artistic people to enter into self-destructive cycle and struggle with behavioral health issues. This is due not to any form of irresponsibility or carelessness. It is due to their sensitivity and unique insight. Their complex thought patterns can turn them into sociologists of sorts, able to see flaws and injustice in the world around them that others would not notice. When an artist feels powerless to help or to have an effect on the situation, they may become depressive or feel suicidal. They may need someone to help sort out their complicated feelings and help them realize self-destruction is not going to help bring about a solution to the things that trouble them.

Artists, even those who just can’t seem to “get it together” are filled with high aspirations, ambition, and courage. They think in complex metaphors and often have a vivid imagination. The fact that they are often seen as struggling with behavioral issues is because they may seem unusual to others. There are those people who see artistic expression as frivolous. The truth is that the world would not be the same without art. Music, design, and creativity shape everything around us- movies, TV, fictional books, and paintings would not even exist without the artistic type we are often so quick to condemn. What kind of world would that be? Perhaps, next time we see a creative person, even if they seem to be struggling or going through a tough time, we should look at them with reverence as opposed to the negative judgment that comes so quickly when we see someone living outside of what has been normalized in society.

As if normal were so easy to describe!

As if normal were so easy to describe!

If you yourself are a struggling artist, value yourself and your work. Not everyone is going to get it, but don’t let your opinion of yourself be affected by what others think. Art is not a waste of your time and it is special and sacred. Many artistic adults are very successful solely based on their unique creativity.

Not a struggling artist? You can still take a page out of their book. After all, creativity has many benefits to your mental health and art in it’s many forms is beneficial to your health as well.

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