Finding expression

Path through pines

I was raised in a home of frustrated creatives who valued art but did not appreciate entrepreneurship. For success as a writer or artist, I believed I had to achieve celebrity like Robert Bateman or Agatha Christie. This is what artists do: seek attention. It is not necessarily a narcissistic process. Finding an effective and meaningful mode of expression and an appropriate audience is an important aspect of art. Everyone needs love and belonging. That is what drives us. Nobody sets out to do these things simply because they want to make money.

Even if your work never appears in the national gallery or wins a Pulitzer Prize, you can still make a living. This is what I failed to realize, at first. In journalism school I learned the first hints of the business of writing, more by osmosis from other writers than the course work. These were the most important lessons.

At various moments in life I wished I could give up words and just do photography or visual art. In fact, if I could start life over with a greater self-awareness and sense of adventure, I might commit entirely to music composition. In ways I feel more at home in music than anywhere else. In writing I feel a measure of competence, so that is what anchors me.

We tend to see the painting or the novel as the artist’s ultimate achievement, but really these are only the modes by which we express ourselves. The real achievement is becoming deeply engaged with what fascinates you. It is not enough to want to write. You must find content, value and meaning to impart. The most valuable art or music is that which changes us. It teaches us to perceive the world anew.

2 thoughts on “Finding expression

  1. I have always said that my career goal was to be valued. It always seemed to be an all-inclusive goal that included both appreciation and compensation.

    Recently, I read that we all strive for “personal distinction” and I liked that term a lot too. I think it is a natural desire to distinguish yourself…to find your place in the world.

    Thanks for the opportunity to explore these ideas today. Your writing always moves me in some way.

    1. Personal distinction seems to be particularly relevant as I’m finding my way as a freelance writer. It helps to develop a beat: a particular topic about which the writer has expertise making him the come-to person for related stories. I wonder whether our distinction finds us, rather than the other way around.

      Thanks for reading and sharing, Joe.

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