So I kind of pride myself on being not the artsy fartsy kind of artist. I have four kids, a happy marriage, and a budget. There’s not a lot of room for brooding and what not. I don’t get to throw myself into my room for days at a time and write. I don’t get to wear all black and get enigmatic tattoos and moan and groan over the fluidity of my sentences. I don’t get to travel around the world on my own doing nothing at all but thinking deep thoughts and writing them down.
And the truth is that I’m kind of glad.
I like my family and my budget. I like not being depressed and stressed. I understand, as do so many in-the-trench artists that being a little too consumed with your art is being a little too consumed with yourself. And people who are too consumed with themselves don’t always make the greatest artists anyway because they have trouble understanding the world from any perspective besides their own.
Recently, when I was working into the late hours of the night, reading my manuscript for the 40,000th time and trying to make sure no typos in the universe were left upon its pages (there are probably still typos left upon its pages), and also stressing about the cover, which wasn’t working out to the satisfaction of both my co-writer and me…Anyway, while all this was happening, I kind of got my artsy fartsy on. I worried about everything, even the minutiae–especially the minutiae. I brooded. I whined to people. I was a little selfish and a little crazy. Sure, people were starving in the world. Sure social injustices were occurring. Sure crimes against innocent people were being committed. But what if I never got a cover I liked. And why couldn’t the rules for dialogue punctuation be a little more straight-forward.
It was quite the dilemma. Except that, of course, it wasn’t. And when I came up from the brooding for air, I felt a little guilty about the whole thing.
One of the parts of being an artist is caring. It’s a deeply important part, and something we should give a little space, and a little grace. It’s true that there are bigger problems in the world than your book (or sketch or song). And yet it’s also true that if you don’t really care at all about your book (or sketch or song), it will most likely never have the power to influence the world, and also–most likely–never have the power to influence you and those you love. So while I don’t plan to get a tattoo of a teardrop seared into my face any time soon, I also recognize that I do care about my little piece of art. It’s one of my contributions to my world, my friends, my kids, and myself. And sometimes in that caring, it’s okay to get a little carried away, a little over-invested. No, we shouldn’t let ourselves drown in our art. When we do our art loses an outreach and a compassion that good art needs to have. Yet we should also be kind to ourselves; we should realize that when we get a little lost in our art, it’s because we love what we do. Deeply. And there’s something pretty forgivable–in fact, something kind of wonderful–in that.