Learning to Live in a Fantasy World, or The Perfect Gift for the Artist in Your Life

Monday, May 28, 2012

"I get to sit all day and make shit up--and get paid large sums of money to do it!"

WorldCon 2012

I really wish I had taken better notes at WorldCon last year. I would like to properly attribute the statement above to the right person on the right panel.

Isn’t that every writer’s dream?

I’d even go so far as to claim that many of us would be willing to substitute “large sums” with “livable amounts”. There is a definite personal value attached to being allowed to, as a living, share the adventures that take place in the imaginary worlds that exist in our minds.

Is having such a dream living in a different sort of fantasy world as well?

I’ve written many times before about how poorly our society treats and values artists who have not achieved “star” status in their field. It makes me wonder how many talented artists have never pursued their art or, perhaps even worse yet, given up—given up, not because they have not achieved a measure of success, but because those around them fail to support them.

By support, I do not necessarily mean in the financial sense. (I know very few sane artists who would reject the offer of money in exchange for being permitted to pursue their work.) Even more key to an artist’s survival is the support of the people around them. While certainly this can take the form of reading the artist’s work, looking over their painting or sculpture, or listening to a few bars of music, it can also be much more simple.

One of the recurring themes I hear from many artists often has less to do with inspiration, finding an audience, or eliciting feedback. More often than that, it’s the inability of those around them to give them to time to create. It’s more than finding time in one’s schedule; it about being allowed to get into the mindset for creation and stay there.

It is difficult to create when one’s thoughts and creative flow are continually interrupted by demands from friends and family—whether by telephone, text, or in-person. Studies have shown that there really is such a thing as a “The Zone” in the creative process. Artists who experience it know what that is and what I mean. Those same studies also indicate that it takes about 20 minutes to re-attain it once it’s been shattered. For those of us whose creative time is limited to perhaps only a few hours a week, those twenty minutes are precious ones indeed.

This is a plea to the friends and family members of artists there:
The next time you see your artist at the keyboard or easel, or perhaps merely deep in thought, please ask yourself whether what you have to interrupt with is truly that urgent. If it’s not, then please walk away and remember it for later. Your artist—and their audience—will thank you.