An Open Letter to ‘The Hemmingway Effect’ – Appreciating the contrasts within the Modern Artist.
As someone who dabbles in many of the creative arts alongside full-time study and work, I find it difficult to answer the question “what do you do?” Like many people, I do a multitude of things with my day, which is seemingly unrelated if you’re not aware of the ins-and-outs of them. So what do I say? Depending on the nature of the person asking me and their reason, I generally don’t say that I’m a creative, or a writer, even though I am, and I have been for a long time. This is partly due to self-inflicted insecurity, and partly due to the fact that depending on who I am speaking to, writing, and the arts are not generally valued as useful or profitable skills in mainstream society. In fact often, when I downplay my creativeness to new people, I will hear degrading things about the arts and humanities, even though everyone is creative in some way, and everyday places and objects are often valued more highly for their aesthetic appeal, than their functionality.
If you are an artist of any kind, a writer, a painter, a musician, a digital wiz, an expert party-decorator or Pinterest entrepreneur, you may have experienced any number of comments, jibes or perhaps well-meaning and innocent yet back-handed compliments about your creative interests. Though most of these words come from places of ill-disguised jealousy, misunderstanding or under-appreciation, much of what we hear about people who create has been passed down to us through generations of journalism based on iconic members from each discipline, like that of Ernest Hemmingway, which in some cases is actually detrimental to the wellbeing and productiveness of the artists in our current age.
Some expectations which resonate with me the most, as a female writer, include external expectations which vary from “you’re likely to only write romance, and at a poor standard” or “you’re a writer, likely to be drunk, depressed and lonely”. There is a culture surrounding writers, and as I have observed, around actors also that they abuse drugs and alcohol to source their inspiration, are difficult to work with, and survive on meals wholly consisted of stroking their own ego.
Although this is exaggerated, and most proven to be untrue, the danger of placing these expectations on your young creative friends is that they may come to feel that you expect this of them and act accordingly. Another would be that you will essentially belittle their years of hard work and self-development to get to where they want to be. I’m sure that no-one likes to be typecast in any way that they feel is offensive or that they don’t identify with, and we as a society have in recent times praised ourselves for embracing each other’s differences. But it seems that this trope doesn’t apply when it comes to our creatives, meaning we restrict them from being their genuine selves, forcing them to adopt whatever ‘artsy’ or ‘hipster’ stereotype fits them best.
Humans are complex, multi-faceted creatures. We need to allow for people to make different daily choices, about what they wear, what they do, who they want to be as long as it is genuine to how they feel, and doesn’t hurt themselves or others. Let’s not box-in our bright minds and creative spirits, or belittle those with talents we wish we possessed because we ourselves are creatively challenged in the conventional ways.
You don’t need to try and help to commodify the talents of your local creatives, as it is natural for them to do it themselves. They’re often known to supplement their passions with a ‘real job’ or something more reliable and financially stable, which eventually comes out on top as priorities shift with age and needs.
We don’t get to spend as much time on the things we love, or are best at in life as we should, for a variety of reasons. Among limited finances and time constraints, society has taught us that artists work are ‘hobbies’ and not financially viable or responsible career avenues. The values that we uphold as westerners, exclude the arts as an encouraged avenue of education and career prospect because unless you’re an immediate prodigy, the industry is competitive and “you’ll never make it”. Again, the external focus for the arts industries seems to be on “making it” whether “it” means money, fame, or whatever else “it” is in the eyes of the beholder, rather than for job satisfaction or enjoyment and being paid for that. The irony of this statement is that while the arts are labelled as not financially viable, people need, want and seek artists for a variety of events and purposes, and often expect them to work for free.
Yes, the reason that artists are labelled as the poor, bare-footed hipster bohemians in our day and age is that although we all want to utilize their skilful and dedicated services, we don’t want to pay them for it.
So, when I am asked what I do with my life, and I think of all of the amazing things that I take for granted in my day, it is difficult to drum down all of one’s little complexities to a concise sentence that aptly explains to that person who I am. I think a simple cure to this plague of misunderstanding, and lack of appreciation is, like most cures to common and less complex prejudices, to learn to embrace it.
The difficult thing we have to learn as artists, whether we are the wallflower, the flamboyant one in the room, or the preppy public servant with the coveted hidden talent is to learn to embrace ourselves for our gifts and place a visible value on the things in life that make us happy. It is too easy to shy away, hiding in people’s insulting assumptions and not telling them about your values in public, and regret it later.
It is also true that if you don’t believe in, enjoy and value your gifts, nobody else will, because you give them no reason to if you don’t share them.
This article was written by Kira Omernik, If you are interested in writing for the Stir blog email us at Magazine@causeastir.com.au