Posting ID : A1068495234
Date Posted : 2015-08-19
Category : Artists
I posted here last week about my struggles with not being able to work as an artist and how difficult it has been for me to go to work every day. Since then I have received several emails and an invitation to speak on a podcast about my experience (won't post a link because am waiting for that to be finalized), which I will do anonymously. The post was also picked up and re-posted on a website called Artist Stories (artiststories.wordpress.com) because I guess it jives with their mission. The post seems to have really resonated with people.
I was not expecting anyone to reach out. I don't exactly know what I was expecting. But it was very touching and definitely one of those moments where one feels like there is hope in humanity. I guess deep down I knew that I was not alone in this struggle. Though, I am still not opposed to a wealthy benefactor reaching out to me!
In these emails I've read about people's struggles about striving to become a working artist, which range from anger to homelessness. I've heard time and time again that becoming an artist is not the answer to one's depression. This is something I've thought about many times. There seems to be a confounding of art for healing and art as vocation. I think there is usually overlap for most artists anyway, and they are not mutually exclusive. But I've heard and seen from artists not suffering from depression that it is possible to have a day job and it not feel like utter hell. It's also been encouraging to see how others have approached these challenges, and much of that has to do with finding support from other artists. That support takes various forms, but it seems rather important. Even just emailing with strangers who "get it" has been a great thing.
I don't love the art world, and I think that was pretty obvious in my last post. Even if one is an independent artist, being a working artist in this capitalist society is fraught with problems, more problems than what's found in the average career, and maybe less or equal problems than people working one or more jobs for unfair wages and still can't pay the bills, go to the doctor, take a day off, retire, etc. I don't know what it's like for people in other types of societies. That would be a good study. Depression or not, it's difficult to strive to be a working artist. It's difficult to be a working artist. And depression makes it more difficult, whether that depression was already there or comes along later with the struggles of life of working as an artist. Whatever the answer is, there is little validation about these issues. And I find that some artists themselves internalize that "stop whining" and "so what" and "oh poor you, you can't play with your paints" and "get a real job like everyone else" mentality. I know this not only from my own internal banter, but from the vitriol I sometimes hear from artists toward other artists. In addition to supporting each other, it seems that examining these internalized attacks on the identity and validity of the artist is important.
Here is what I wrote (lightly edited for grammar, privacy and clarity) in an email to someone who had reached out to me.
"Despite not wanting to go to work sometimes (not because I'm lazy but because it almost literally feels like hell to go there), I have vowed not to quit working to only make art. I wouldn't know how to survive, financially. I can relate to the idea of wanting to escape depression through art and know that this is not the answer to all of my problems. At this point there is definitely untreated depression going on. And like you, that doesn't mean that art doesn't have an important place in my life, but is part of managing depression and is also a vocation (even if not full time right now). I already have a business plan hand written that I'd like to type up. It's just a fancy outline for how to proceed. But I can't even do anything with that until I create some more art. There's not really much to sell at this point, anyway. What the plan has helped with is give me a guide with how to manage my time in order to create the few series that I need/want to create, and I have made some progress toward my goals. I guess I wrote that CL post in a moment of hopelessness with having to go to a job that is probably the worst match for someone with depression. The ironic thing is that the job isn't actually the problem. The depression is the problem, which my career exacerbates. During mentally healthy times, I am able to go to work (and better manage the toxicity) and come home and focus on making art, but it's the depression that throws me down for the count and interrupts my productivity. However, I am working on switching careers because mine is very toxic (I should've listened to my mother when she told me not to enter this field! lol), while also balancing art making, going to work, and general life things... it's a lot.
And at times I feel totally hopeless and overwhelmed because it all takes time. But on days that I am not feeling as hopeless I know that I need to stick to it because the time will come and go and when I'm done reaching my goals and putting the work in, it will be worth it."