Many artists I talk to are convinced that they would be able to finish their book/symphony/script/sculpture/painting/quilt and fulfil their artistic dreams if only they had an unlimited amount of money and no commitments. Until then, they argue, there’s no point in even starting.
Needless to say, most people never get a chance to test this hypothesis, not only for the obvious financial reasons but also because the pressures of the “real world” don’t actually go away.
Eric Maisel – author of 35 books on creativity, as well as a licensed psychotherapist – makes a similar argument in his latest book, Rethinking Depression, where he argues that existential pressures are here to stay as well:
“Why is it that so many lottery winners, after a brief period of euphoria, become unhappier than they were before winning the lottery? This happens because there is no lottery to win with regard to life. If you were an alcoholic before you won the lottery, you are still an alcoholic — albeit with a better-stocked liquor cabinet. If you were a cranky, critical, angry young man with a hefty sense of grandiosity and no willingness to do any real work, you are still that narcissist — probably even more so. If you wanted to create symphonies, occasionally tried, but invariably bored yourself with your efforts, you could now hire a symphony orchestra to play your music — and bore a concert hall full of people. Where is the change or improvement in any of that?
This is what many lottery winners experience. If you weren’t living an authentic life before you won the lottery, an influx of money will provide you with the perfect opportunity to live just as inauthentically, or even more inauthentically. If you haven’t created yourself in your own best image, if you haven’t demanded of yourself that you strive to understand what matters to you, if you haven’t aligned your thoughts and behaviors with your intentions, an influx of money is just an opportunity to further refrain from stepping up to the plate.”
He argues that we cannot afford to rely on external things to give meaning to our lives, but that we must create meaning for ourselves, embrace the fact of human unhappiness and sadness, and give up our expectation that mental health professionals can solve these problems for us.
You may be wondering how to start. Is meaning really so important? Isn’t it a lot of work? And how on earth does one create an “authentic life” when one is busy fighting the monsters under one’s child’s bed, ironing clothes for work the next morning, and frantically trying to find just half an hour to devote to one’s creative work?
Eric Maisel will be making a guest appearance here tomorrow to answer these questions and more. Stay tuned!