As we continue the final stages of The Artist’s Journey, we encounter a challenge we’ve maybe never considered. This challenge that will come, sooner or later, is the thing that all our groundwork will either have prepared us for, or which can be our ultimate undoing.
Of course, I am talking about the problem of success!
Julia reminds us that, “Creativity is a spiritual practice. It is not something that can be perfected, finished, and set aside. It is my experience that we reach plateaus of creative attainment only to have a certain restlessness set in. Yes, we are successful. Yes, we have made it, but…
“In other words, just when we get there, there disappears. Dissatisfied with our accomplishments, however lofty, we are once again confronted with our creative self and its hungers. The questions we have just laid to rest now rear their heads again: what are we going to do.. now?”
We will be tested by this dissatisfaction, she assures us. While it would be so delicious to rest on our laurels, she warns, “As artists, we are spiritual sharks. The ruthless truth is that if we don’t keep moving, we sink to the bottom and die…the stringent requirement of a sustained creative life is the humility to start again, to begin anew.”
In fact, she believes that it is our willingness to constantly start from scratch that will make or break a creative career.
“A friend of mine,” she writes (and we can’t help but long to know who!), “a master in his field, finds himself uncomfortably committed years in advance of his availability. He is in an enviable position on a business level, but he finds it is increasingly perilous to his artistic health. When the wheel turns and the project committed to three years ago must be executed, can he do it with imagination and his initial enthusiasm?
“The honest answer is often an uncomfortable no. And so, at great financial cost, he has begun cutting back his future commitments, investing in the riskier but more rewarding gain of artistic integrity.”
Maybe you are thinking “Ha – I should be so lucky to have those problems.” But, even if they are (for now) only in small ways, maybe you already are. This circles back again to our money fears and old beliefs about living up to other peoples’ expectations. We can easily change from blocked artist of little or no output to blocked artist of, maybe popular, but not authentic, output.
Can you think of any famous artists (film, art, music, etc.) that appear to have fallen prey to the seduction of safety and success? I’d love to hear your thoughts.