If you are a depressed artist, the following may be helpful. Conversely, if you are not depressed then, I would imagine, you are either not an artist or are a fortunate exception.
The old blues cliche about becoming “a better artist when you’ve suffered more” does not apply here. This essay is about your inherent make up rather than typical life problems (i.e., harsh upbringing, baby mother/father drama, financial difficulties, etc.).
There’s a reason why all artists are presumed to be tortured souls. You have a creativity born from original thinking. Your potential for fame is based on your proprietary thought process.
This does not apply to pop stars. Their potential for fame is due to fads, formula and multi-million dollar mass marketing. They (and their svengalis) are only “artist” if and when the prefix “con” is applied. Pop stars may be depressed also, but that’s merely because they quickly become aware of their temporal significance.
Many pop stars are endowed with talent. Gifts, though, are only a function of luck. Providence distributes talent randomly to several of us. Still artistry requires a covenant with self. Talent is but a component. Mining one’s soul in order to share its gems with humanity takes a deliberate (and brave) decision.
The true artist digs deep within, so that she/he may facilitate superbly human connections. When such digging is done sincerely, what’s discovered is unique. That’s the problem.
Individuality breeds loneliness. When you think differently, loneliness abounds. You may, like pop stars tend to, surround yourself with sycophants, but you will still be alone. Most likely, you will prefer the company of “friends.” Sadly, though friends sincerely love you, it will become ever clearer that none of them truly understand you. How could they? It is your unique thought process that makes you special and, by extension, alone. Therein lies the depression.
The other day I trekked overnight for miles through the streets of South Central LA. My hotel money was securely in my pocket, yet I walked until dawn thinking about the loneliness that succumbs us. Creeping vehicles and curious looks did nothing to distract me. I could not help but focus on the loneliness. My thought process causes me to do things that seem odd to most. I do these sorts of things on occasion. My reasoning process is the strength of my writing AND the nadir of my loneliness.
You see, It’s organic. Artist, eventually, begin to feel like aliens longing to return to their planet of origin. Remember, that which made Superman special on Earth, only made him normal on Krypton.
The loneliness caused by your individuality can make you ill. Likewise, many artists self medicate via drugs, alcohol, groupies, fame or anything else that may make life less painful.
In the extreme, even suicide may appear attractive, as if it’s the way to return to “krypton,” the artist’s point of origin. This option seems quite appealing when the artist is at her/his loneliest. All seems pointless. This loneliness may manifest before, during or after the artist becomes popular.
Before so called fame, there is the belief that if more people are touched by your unique thought process, the loneliness will subside. This phase may not be survived if the artist does not experience increased popularity within a tolerable time frame. You should note here though, that popularity grows geometrically rather than linearly. That is to say that true fame often grows so slowly as to be undetected at first. Add to this, “the tipping point” cannot usually be foreseen. Thus it’s possible to believe nothing is happening for years and then wake up one morning to find that you’ve become more popular overnight than in all the years prior.
When the artist becomes famous, the curtain is pulled from the myth that popularity equates to the dissipation of loneliness. Fame is due to people appreciating aspects of you. Sadly, the aspects which tend to be appreciated, by the vast majority, are surface level. This does not provide a fulfilling reward for having dug deep.
Popularity is an opiate. It is capable of deluding the artist into almost believing she/he isn’t lonely. Thus when popularity wanes the pain increases. Self-medication often accompanies this. Tragically, as the pain increases, self-medication often increases also: be it in the form of substances, sycophants or clamoring for spots in infomercials, embarrassing gigs or Celebrity Fit Club/Surreal Life inclusion.
Fortunately, there are several cures for the artist’s strain of loneliness. One is fellowship. It is important to spend personal time in the company of other artists you respect. The sharing of thoughts and experiences may help with emotional burdens.
Another solution is reading. It is an especially good idea to read the biographies (and essays) of those who have come before you. This level of enlightenment can be counted on to shed light on the demons that may come to plague you.
My last suggestion is to stay productive. There are few things more cathartic for artists than baring her/his soul through the manifestation of self.
In the end I’m sure there are many more paths toward appreciating this existence while subsiding the loneliness. I would bet, though, that there is one thing that will doom all these attempts to failure. The true artist should, at all times, be mindful of selling out. There can be no guarantee that you will ever be the same once you endeavor to become a stranger to yourself. Never fail to be someone you respect. Nothing is lonelier than the desire to avoid yourself.
- Taalam Acey
i’ve walked on the African sands like the Kosan
the original man from lands sacred
battled Zulu tribes for the passion of word play and swam
the Zambezi butt naked
seen the sun rise in the east and set in the west
plotted star charts and directions for God to manifest
from the peaks of the Pyramids i left tags in dark caves
that gave humanity clues on how to star gaze
i’ve seen a snake shed its skin like the seasons and change
i’ve seen world rearrange in a flash
now for this cash, they rape Mother Africa for wealth
it’s left me stranded in a spiritual realm all by myself
headed to Mecca i stopped and spoke Kiswahili with tribes
chanted native dialects over the hill i felt vibes
threw my hands in the sky then beat them hard on a
drum over the horizon, i waited for freedom to come
but the ships just keep sailing and whips just keep cracking
i wonder where i am so i begin back tracking through the
Solomonic dynasty, i read the Kebra, took me swift
across the plains like i was riding on a Zebra, the Ashante
draped me in robes of royalty, the Shona tribe blessed me
with lyrical ability, its beauty infinite and there’s just no
debating, when i finally saw all along who’s been waiting