There are some days that I feel like I could hang out with the Cowardly Lion from the wizard of oz, we could sit around, drink hot chocolate and talk about all the things we are afraid of and all the reasons that we can't do the things we long to do, be the people (or lions) that we need to be, and then maybe we would take a road trip down the yellow brick road, to go visit the Great OZ, and see if maybe he could loan us a little bit of courage. Only to have the OZ inform us that we already possess the courage we were looking for and that we needed to dig down a bit deeper to find it. This of course, was not the answer we were looking for... kinda just hoping we could pick some up, as if courage was like a gallon of milk from the grocery store or something. We're probably a bit disappointed and decide to just get back to doing what we do, we'll have our brave moments, but still have those times when we're still just big scaredy cats.
I love being an artist, I couldn't imagine being anything else. It is who I am and what I'll always be, and pretty much my option in life, and a good option, I'm grateful. And I don't mean "artist" as in a "job" or "career", though it does come quite handy in my line of work, but as an inseparable part of my identity. Being artsy fartsy is fun and stuff, but at the same time feels so very vulnerable, even torturous on many occasions. You've got to put yourself out there, because art is such a reflection of ones self, soul, perspective, beliefs, upbringing and life. It's tough to have secrets, or protect your insecurities. There must be honesty, there must be transparency or a confession of some sort. And when there is transparency, people will see right through, to you, to your core, to your goods and your bads. And there is some kind of bazaar need to share it, art just can't be kept to ones self. There is really no way of getting around this. It is a risk that one must take in order to create. And when we do create, we find great joy in the process, that is of course until it is time for the great reveal to the rest of the world, that is when the fear settles in, and we aren't content, or our creation is not complete until it is shared, displayed, performed etc. And then that's when you wait... for either the applause or the boo's, or equally bad... silence. It is a challenge to disregard judgement or response of our art, or the need for approval. I've tried, I still try. Not generally successful, sometimes. Truth is, we're just asking for it really, again we must get some kind of kick out of it, or a kick in the pants. The rewards of positive approval of our creations can be so satisfying to our ego, that it can fuel our creative fire, almost as if it can not survive with out it. This is not the purest source of inspiration, it's counterfeit and selfish , and nonetheless can be an effective motivator for a while. And it can have positive effects if you keep proper perspective, and using art to better the lives of others. If your art is your business, then your lively hood depends on approval, and that is a crappy head game. As well the completely opposite thing can transpire if the response is negative enough or silent, it can shut you down, shut you up, make you want to run and hide under the bed and never come out... until you decide stop being such a cowardly lion and then get some darn courage to try again.
As you can imagine, this all creates an overly heightened sense of self-awareness, or self centeredness. And if one isn't careful, it can turn an artist into a real monster. This scares me, and even dwelling on the fear of becoming a self centered monster, is actually in itself... being self centered. aaahhhhh!!!
That is when you have to decide to snap out of it, don't take your inner artist so seriously. Maybe it would be nice to volunteer at a elementary school, or go mow the neighbors lawn, call grandma or let a friend talk about their problems or successes and just listen. I very recently had the experience of getting to go sing at the Bethesda Hospital in Washington D.C. and visit with wounded soldiers that had just returned from Afghanistan. Probably one of the most impacting experiences I've ever had. These young men, were lying in beds after just loosing a leg in an explosion, or both legs, or an arm and a leg, some had survived a serious head injury... all as a result of their conscious and selfless decision to put their lives on the line in order to serve our country. Looking into the eyes of these strong and severely injured fellows was both emotionally overwhelming and truly humbling. One guy in particular had lost both of his legs and a few fingers just two weeks previous. He was just twenty one years of age, he was an athlete and loved to play guitar. His biggest regret was that he was unable to continue his service in Afghanistan with his "brothers". It was hard to know what to say, what to talk about, they don't want you to feel sorry for them, when of course you do. They want to maintain their dignity, I wanted to honor that. We talked about his family, his ipad, and I then asked him was how he was doing with the realization of what had happened, He said "I've come to terms with it, I've made peace. I'm not angry, I'll adapt". He smiled, I believed him. Talk about courage.
For the last few weeks I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. Changed my perspective. Today I started feeling a cowardly lion artist ego attack and I had to stop myself, I thought about those soldiers, it put me back in my place... I've got my limbs, and all I've got to do is go out and make art... it's not war.
Geez-louise, This blog post was heavy. They won't always be. Oh and please remember the military in your prayers.