​Artists and the Pursuit of Freedom

Life is full of obligations. There are constrains on our time, our movement, at times our very ability to think for ourselves. For some, a life of routine and rules suits well. There are those who thrive when they are following along and being told what to do and when to do it. For others, living this way is tantamount to imprisonment. The prospect of the same job, day in and day out–wake up, go to work, come home, to et, then sleep, repeat– is utterly soul extinguishing. For many who operate in right-brained fields, this is the case. Artists, writers, and musicians often share a common need for freedom. Their work doesn’t fit in with the standard way of doing business, but neither do they.

We live in a society where homogeneity rules. Every aspect of our lives, whether we realize it or not, is in some way dictated by a vast financial machine that relies on the ability to control the minds of many in a sense. It benefits the system to have us fall in line. This idea permeates our culture so thoroughly that even those closest to us may not be able to grasp the need for individualism and freedom. Often, the pursuit of these things becomes contentious for those who believe it would be better to give up on the fantasy of making it in a creative field and just get a job. There are those who quite literally cannot understand why this could pose a problem to anyone. Just like it is impossible to truly know what the world looks like through another’s eyes, it is perhaps impossible to understand how something that seems an innocuous necessity to one person could feel positively toxic to another.

While freedom may not be the primary goal of anyone wishing to pursue a career as an artist, it is likely at least motivation on some level. But there is far more at stake when one takes up the challenge of turning artistic passion into a way of generating income. There is a deep-seated need to find fulfillment in what one does. There is a recognition that in order to be happy, one must be free. This is a steep road without question. There is a strength of will required to stick to this thorny path in the face of defeat, uncertainty, and at times derision.

There may be days when we think, what sets me apart? What makes me so special that I get to reach for this lofty goal of freedom and fulfillment? In the face of family, spouses, lovers, friends, all of whom may be telling us—with the best of intentions of course—to give up the dream and buckle down, it can be easy to eventually internalize this energy and believe it is what’s right. The truth of the matter is that, despite these people being some of our closest confidantes and advisors, no one knows you like you do. It is only us who truly know our own needs. No matter how intimately connected we may be with another person, only we live inside our own minds.

It is an unfortunate truth that the desire to fulfill a goal such as this can present very real challenges to relationships. The people we partner with in life may have dreams that are very far removed from our own and may begin to see the need to pursue art as an obstacle to forward momentum. They may see tenacity as stubbornness and may interpret an unwillingness to come to terms with that they deem reality. It is important for those in creative fields to be up front about their goals from the very outset of any relationship. Since the goal is freedom and fulfillment, what partner or friend in a relationship would really want to deny that intent in the other, even if they didn’t understad it? While there is absolutely nothing wrong with choosing this life, it may not be for everyone and it is only right that those who may become entangled in our lives understand where our priorities lie.

When confronted by those who love us and think they know best, it can be difficult to know how to respond. Initial reactions to this sort of unsolicited advice may be rooted in anger and frustration that those closest to us are not showing confidence in our ability to succeed. Take a moment and breathe. Do not meet such interactions with hostility. Try to remember that the people who love us want nothing but the best for us. They are our allies even though they may not always understand how to support us.

It is important to help these people help us. Do not mince words, be direct about your needs and goals. Ask whether your spouse, your lover, your best friend would rather see you resentfully trudging a claustrophobic path that offers no fulfillment, or engaged in the practice of following your calling with the assurance that it is possible to make a career as an artist.

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