The Artist’s Journey, #5
As we continue this serialization, we’re hard at work on putting together the actual book—as an eBook, a physical paperback, and an audiobook. We’re in copy-editing and cover design right now. I’ll keep you apprised, for sure, as we progress …
Now back to the book (we were in the section called “Characteristics of the Artist’s Journey”):
13. THE ARTIST’S JOURNEY IS MENTAL
The sculptor may shape marble or manipulate bronze. The architect may work in steel and stone. But these materials are merely the physical embodiment of an image that the artist sees inside her mind.
The artist’s medium is thought.
Her product is the fruit of the imagination.
14. THE ARTIST’S JOURNEY IS AN EVOLUTION
We call it a journey because it moves, because it advances from one place to another.
We set forth as artists, you and I, from a Portsmouth of the mind and sail for an imaginary Indies. Storms arise along the way. We encounter monsters (and allies as well). Growth occurs. Progress is recorded.
The artist changes on this journey.
She is not the person at the end that she was at the beginning.
15. THE ARTIST’S JOURNEY IS A CONSTANT
And yet, no matter how profoundly or dramatically the artist’s work evolves over her lifetime, her subject remains the same.
She may dive into it more deeply, she may come at it from wildly different directions, but her obsession remains unaltered throughout her life.
16. THE ARTIST’S JOURNEY IS ABOUT SELF-DISCOVERY
I’ve read many times that art is self-expression. I don’t believe it.
I don’t believe the artist knows what he or she wishes to express.
The artist is being driven from a far deeper and more primal source than the conscious intellect. It is not an overstatement, in my view, to declare that the artist has no idea what he’s doing.
As Socrates famously declared in Plato’s Phaedrus:
… if a man comes to the door of poetry untouched by the madness of the Muses, believing that technique alone will make him a good poet, he and his sane compositions never reach perfection, but are utterly eclipsed by the performances of the inspired madman.
The artist is not expressing himself, he is discovering himself.
17. THE ARTIST’S JOURNEY IS ABOUT THE ART, NOT THE ARTIST
Whom exactly is the artist discovering?
Is Dostoyevsky discovering Dostoyevsky?
Is Dostoyevsky discovering “Dostoyevsky?”
Or is “Dostoyevsky” discovering Dostoyevsky?
My answer is #4.
The artificial ego-entity that the world (and Dostoyevsky himself perhaps) believes to be Dostoevsky is discovering a deeper, wider, smarter, braver personage that has traveled across leagues and eons to reach this present moment and will continue its passage long after “Dostoyevsky” is gone.
The artist himself is disposable.
What endures is the Self he is seeking, which is not “himself” but himself.
18. THE ARTIST’S JOURNEY IS DANGEROUS
The artist, like the mystic and the renunciant, does her work within an altered sphere of consciousness.
Seeking herself, her voice, her source, she enters the dark forest. She is alone. No friend or lover knows where her path has taken her.
Rules are different within this wilderness. Hatters are mad and principles inverted.
The artist has entered this sphere of her own free will. She has deliberately unmoored herself from conventional consciousness. This is her calling. This is what she was born to do.
Will she come out safely?
19. ON THE ARTIST’S JOURNEY, ALL ENEMIES ARE MENTAL.
Fear of failure.
Fear of success.
Fear of the new, fear of pain, of loneliness, of exertion, of intensity.
Need for external (third-party) validation.
Inability to defer gratification.
Predisposition to distraction.
Shallowness of thought and purpose.
The need to cling to the known.
None of these enemies is real in the sense that, say, a lion is real, or a man with a gun.
All are products of the mind.
20. ON THE ARTIST’S JOURNEY, ALL ENEMIES ARE SELF-GENERATED
The artist on her journey confronts no foes that are not of her own creation.
Her fear is her own. Her vanity. Her need for adulation, for the attention of others, for titillation, for distraction.
Like Walter Pidgeon dueling the monsters of the Id in Forbidden Planet, the artist possesses within herself the capacity to overcome these enemies.
She has created them mentally.
She can defeat them the same way.