Encouraging Words for Despairing Artists

If you’re an artist, or have an artistic impulse, or care deeply about art, you probably experience the kind of quiet despair that I find in many of my jazz musician friends, my poet friends, my painter friends, and frequently from myself. Yes, it’s heartbreaking to be part of a culture that finds the work that we do increasingly irrelevant and of little worth (at least in the marketplace sense). It’s depressing to be so astonishingly good at something and yet so relatively uncelebrated and unappreciated.
But you must never stop. We — all of us who care in varying degrees about stuff other than acquiring and consuming — are out there. We’re reading, and listening, and looking, and cogitating, and arguing, and questioning, and loving. We can’t be co-opted. We’re too smart and too aware. We’re not going anywhere. And we need you, you specifically, with your lavish talents, and all the others like you who bring something good and maybe lasting to this world.
Let me remind you that what you do — what all of us who traffic in ideas, in the endless and unknowable quest to understand and explain what it means to be alive and conscious — has value. It is good. It is beautiful. It’s a counterweight to the crushing barrage of disposable crap that the popular culture flings at us.
One of my very best friends is a 10-time Grammy-nominated jazzer. Tierney Sutton was my high school classmate. Bobby McFerrin is my hero. These cats and kittens have taught me a lesson in humility, the real kind. They understand that they’re gifted, that they’ve been given specific gifts from the Creator or the Universe or whatever concept you prefer. They understand that the gift is not theirs; they are merely the vessel through which the divine energy flows, and they are meant to, they are obligated, to share it with the world. It’s a heavy responsibility. These folks complain and despair and fret, because it’s so damn hard to go on when you’re reaching for the transcendent and nobody seems to care. But they go on reaching, anyhow. That’s what a responsible curator of divine gifts does: he bears the burden and he shares.
Your gifts matter, Mr. and Ms. Artist. You’re a beautiful creator and a beautiful person.  How many (or few) people are capable of appreciating your beauty hardly matters. That there are any at all means you are important, hugely important — to us and to God, or whomever bestowed upon you uncommon intelligence.
So keep doing your thing. It’s a kind of magic; you’re blessed to be cursed with the responsibility of sharing it.

15 comments to Encouraging Words for Despairing Artists

  • Thank you work giving words to my frustrations.

  • mk fan

    Amen! Thank you, Mr. Konik, for brightening my day with this inspiring and beautifully written essay. When I feel I can’t go on, I’m going to read this again and then I’m going to keep on keeping on!

    Blessings.

  • Thank you for this, not only for myself, but likewise for some of my friends and associate fellow artist. Beautifully put and measured. Thank you moreover for my husband, who is one of the most talented musicmakers I HAVE EVER KNOWN, Mr. Greg Wright.

    God Bless you Dear Sir for your heartfelt message with heartfelt content.

    I believe you are a messenger and an angel full of love.

    Sincerely

    T. Wright

  • Wow! I could not have stated this better myself, Michael! You hit the nail right on the head!

  • Tam

    This is just beautiful! Thank you for the much needed encouragement, MK.

  • Carl Litchfield

    Thank you. I’ve often felt discouraged because I didn’t think anyone appreciated my writing, or because I wasn’t sure it would ever put food on the table.

  • Lance B.

    Top 10 thought for sure…

  • Alison

    THank you! I was JUST about to share this but then read “Mr Artist”. If only it said just Artist or was not male specific . . . what about all of the Miss Artists’ out there? Perhaps next time no formal title, just open ended . . . Blessings.

  • Thank you for this Michael Konik. I needed to be reminded of this today…and the past week actually! After performing in a sort of spiritual spa called Rancho La Puerta for a week (I am a crooner with an appreciation for jazz), I realized that we as artists are healers. Why do people by tickets, paintings, recordings?…because these heal them, even for just a few minutes, from the worry and angst and stress of life. NOT giving the world our talent, is like knowing having a pill that relieves the common cold, and not handing it out. I try to remember this, when I get down from self-motivating. Thank you again for putting it all so eloquently.

  • I am sharing this with all my creative friends because we can ‘so’ identify with this piece.

  • ScottyJ

    Thank you. Your essay exactly completes what was started in the Quote of the Day I got in my inbox a couple of weeks ago from Values.com:

    “Never forget that you are one of a kind. Never forget that if there weren’t any need for you in all your uniqueness to be on this earth, you wouldn’t be here in the first place. And never forget, no matter how overwhelming life’s challenges and problems seem to be, that one person can make a difference in the world. In fact, it is always because of one person that all the changes that matter in the world come about. So be that one person. ”

    R. Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983) -
    architect, engineer, inventor

  • Oh (sigh and weep, gnashing teeth). I suppose so. Yes, vessels that must be emptied so it can be filled with the gifts. As wonderful as they are, they are a burden at times. But I suppose acceptance is part of it.

  • Trina P.

    Thank you so much for this. I really was despairing over whether or not to continue with my art, when so many of my peers go off to do more tangible work- nursing, doctor, chemists, soldiers and the like- I was feeling perhaps I should drop it regardless of my love for it. But this, this was just what it said on the tin. Very encouraging, I’ll be coming back to this article time and again, and linking fellow artists who need a refreshing point of view.

  • Thank you very much for these words… I guess I was really needing to read something like that…

  • FOCG

    Encouraging Words indeed. Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I’ve truly enjoyed reading your essays. Brilliant writing. I’ll subscribe to your rss feed and I hope you write again very soon!

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