Artists have known for some time what studies are only now starting to report: art is as fulfilling as parenthood. The artist is rewarded by the same chemicals produced while creating their art as parents are by parenthood. All those emotions we thought only belonged to parents actually flow freely in the artist as well. Looking in your kid’s eyes and feeling awash with love is actually exactly the same as looking at your art as it is created and after it is finished. Some would go so far as to say that creating art is potentially much more fulfilling, but we don’t want to insult all those folks that think they’re somehow special because they are popping out babies like so many others.
There’s a reason that we have an overpopulation problem with people, but not art. Remember that hierarchy of needs? Sex is at the bottom; everybody wants it, according to good old Maslow. That’s all you need to do to become a biological parent, that thing that nearly everyone wants. There is personal progress to be made before the desire to express yourself artistically comes along, and that progress is the responsibility of the individual. It turns out parenting isn’t the hardest job after all; in fact, it’s the only job nearly anyone is capable of. Who knew?
Oh, yeah…lots of people.
Artists have always known this. They see how carefully and lovingly their creations must be crafted, and wonder how the parent could call themselves creator. The effective business or personal leader has always known this. They have learned how difficult it is to understand and motivate others. Many of the people taking orders from these leaders go home and bark orders at their children. No one sees any reason for them to be in charge in any other situation, but at home they are tyrannical. Orders they would never tolerate from another slip easily from their lips, and their little subjects don’t know that it’s an inexperienced and incompetent leader barking them. That’s Mom, or Dad; they know all the answers, right?
Sorry; but you’re wrong, kid. If you want answers, you’ll have to find someone that has actually led others effectively or subjugated their lives to mastering their art. If you want happiness, you’ll have to learn to become that person. Along the way you’ll be tempted to do what so many others do, and settle in at level two or three in that hierarchy we keep referring to. But any artist will tell you what few parents know: the frustration of living at that level is not something we should learn to live with; that frustration is fuel, and it’s meant to propel us to the next level. We need more than fuel to get there, though; we need an engine to put it in, and a transmission to transfer power properly. Only the artist can build those things, and we each have to build our own.
It’s not impossible to do both of these things, of course. It is at least twice as hard. I am not knocking the good parent here, or even the bad ones. I’m just pointing out that anyone can be a parent, as long as they have functioning sexual organs. It takes a lot more deliberate work to be an artist of any kind. I am happy to further acknowledge that being a good parent is possibly the hardest job in the world, if you will acknowledge that the majority of parents leave at least a little something to be desired in how they do that job. If it were an actual job, many people would have been let go long ago in favor of a better candidate. But kids are often stuck with the first applicant, and no ability to replace them with a better one.
Luckily, art is more fickle. Inspiration only comes when the artist gets those antennae working properly, and creation only happens when they make the time for it. Art doesn’t grow up while you’re away at work or prison, and it doesn’t mature on its own even if you neglect it. There are no public schools to babysit your art, and no one else that can teach it the things it needs to learn. Unlike children, art is one lesson after another in personal responsibility. If you don’t learn these lessons with your kid, they still grow up and move on. If you don’t learn them with your art, it will never make it past infancy.
These are all good things. The good parent spends quality time with their kid, and the good artist spends quality time with their art. If you don’t invest in your kid, they might still grow up and take care of you later. If you don’t invest in your art, it barely stands a chance. This is your creation, and everything you do is either you standing behind it or you turning away from it. At every step of the way, art needs to be nurtured; when it is ready to go out into the world, the artist’s work has often only just begun. Now it’s time to learn whatever it takes to get it to the people whose souls will be fed by it, while working on the next project at the same time.
Like good parents read books on parenting, artists read books on being better at their art. They also read books on marketing and advertising, making the most of the self they have to make the most of, and anything else that will help their dream come true better tomorrow than it did today. That’s what the author has to do as well, if they want to get those books into the hands of the right readers. We have to realize that our books are our babies, and become the best proud parents that we can be. Now that the secret’s out, just watch how many folks stop having babies and start doing that thing they always dreamed of. I can’t wait.
So, who are these precious people I keep writing about, the ‘right readers’? I’m glad you asked! I’ll do my best to answer that question next week, in a post called ‘Who’s Reading, Anyway?’
Thanks for reading!