I am so glad that many of you had a light bulb moment from Sunday’s video. I kept thinking of so many of my favorite writers, musicians, and painters whose lives might have longer and happier had they seen their creativity from this ancient perspective. And of course, it can change so much about how we produce our work.
Which brings us to our next topic from The Artist’s Way today. Another hazard that prompts this chapter, “Recovering a Sense of Self-Protection” is that old seducer, fame.
Fame is not the same thing as success, although they often accompany one another. Success feels good, gives a sense of satisfaction and joyful eagerness to continue. Fame may feel good for a brief jolt or two, but it leaves one hungry, even desperate, for more.
Fame, Julia declares, is an addictive drug. When we are not awash in it, we are constantly on edge, wondering where the next dose will come from. How am I doing compared to them? Who is doing better than me? How do I look? Who is noticing?
This is not, she warns, the same thing as caring about how the work is going. Focusing on doing our best, meeting the challenges in our medium, striving to grow and produce – these are all good, and healthy, because the focus is on the work itself.
Fame can be a byproduct of our work. But it can be a very toxic byproduct. It can become an end in itself. In the poisonous maze of fame addiction, what matters is the reception we get from the critics, the media and our audience. It becomes all about us and our ego.
Yes, it is very true that as artists (heck, as humans for that matter!) we need validation at least some of the time. But the point of our work needs to be the work – how is it going? “Fame,” Julia writes, “interferes with that perception. Instead of acting being about acting, it become about being a famous actor. Instead of writing being about writing, it becomes about being recognized, not just published.”
So as Elizabeth Gilbert points out in Sunday’s video, what happens if you have a moment when the heavens open, and your work, and you the artist, and all you are doing merges into a sublime, transcendent Creation, and your audience knows it and adores you/it?
What if it doesn’t ever happen that way? Will you start drinking gin at 9 in the morning? Will you give up? Will you call yourself a failure if it never happens, or never happens again? And again? And again?
Julia tells us that one antidote to the fame drug (wanting to get some if we never have had it, or keeping it and increasing it once we have) is to realize that the addictive ingredient in fame is our need for love.
We can meet that need in healthy ways, especially by taking meticulous care of our inner artist. Lavishing love on our work and on our creative process takes the focus away from needing gratification from others. She even suggests we can reassure ourselves with self-addressed love notes dropped in the mail to give us a “fix” of fan mail.
While I think she’s on the right track, I believe there is a simpler, more permanent solution to this hazard. I’ll explain tomorrow!