If you have ever lived with one or loved one, you know that the creative artist is a complex character seemingly devoted to emotional contradictions. For hundreds of years, writers, painters, sculptors, composers, and musicians have made self-defenses of their passions and life styles. The efforts extend pity to paradox, and the divorces and estrangements continue from age to age.
There are many common elements of the creative personality that form a syndrome of their peculiar malady. If the disease can be identified and isolated, perhaps there can be an understanding of the behavior of the patient.
First of all, let’s define what we mean by a creative artist. The creative artist creates a body of work. The definition is not dependent on whether the work is published, produced, or performed. Each piece, long or short, must be completed, however, and a compilation of past and planned projects must demonstrate that serious work is being done on a continual basis over a period of years.
An individual who writes one novel, one play, or one symphony and then quits because the work was not accepted is not a creative artist. The creative artist cannot quit no matter what his circumstance. If the society condemns his work, he will become furtive, go underground, but he will nevertheless be productive.
You can identify the creative artist by his persistence to produce work in spite of poverty and rejection. There may be very productive periods and very unproductive periods depending on circumstances, but the creative artist is always working at his art.
Pretenders at being creative artists can talk for hours about their plans and ideas, but they will have no continuum of finished work to show for all their talk and emotion.
The creative artist has finished work to show.
The creative artist creates in spite of all financial and interpersonal obstacles.
The creative artist may perform other occupations. She may even do commercial work within her discipline, but no work outside of her creative production satisfies her. If happiness can be defined as inner peace and tranquility, the creative process is her only real, unqualified joy. No matter what emotions were involved in the arrival at the creative moment, beyond the anger and the tears. The moment of creation is pure delight.
If your artistic friend seems moody and distant at times, it is because he is in the creative process. He is experiencing the withdrawal symptoms between bursts of creative energy. He is a creative junkie waiting for the next fix of creative juices.
The creative artist can experience unqualified happiness only in the solitary moments of the creative act. She is often inept emotionally outside of that experience. When she is concentrating on a large work, she has little or no energy left for other activities. That’s why she flops into bed and sleeps for ten hours at a time. That’s why she watches too much television and ignores the household chores.
The creative artist has an innate drive and passion for his art that is genetic. A long evolution has produced him. He is programmed by nature to express himself in literature, or marble, or with musical instruments. Often in his lifetime, he will wish that he could cast off the impractical yoke of this insatiable desire, and some fight it to their own mental and physical destruction. The will to art is not always a welcome passion. It often seems to the individual a cruel joke that denies choice and free will.