Artists Are Not Special

Fair warning.  If you consider yourself an “artist”, this post is likely to piss you off.  Read at your own risk.

Oh God, if I hear one more “artist” going on about how he needs to suffer for his art, or how artists are “creative people”, and creative people are more prone to depression, or alcoholism, or whatever stupid cliche the “artist” wants to spout, I’m going to lose it.

Seriously, can we grow up, please?

The thing that’s prompting this particular rant is a thread on the Kindleboards, titled “Can Creative People Be Happy?”  The title alone set me off, because it’s a freaking stupid question.  No offense to the original poster.  He seems like a decent enough fellow, and he pointed out that he doesn’t fall into any of the artist cliches.  But he’s falling for the cliches.  He seems to actually believe them, and they’re complete bullshit.

Yep, utter and complete bullshit.  Here’s why.  It will shock you.

Ready for it?

People who practice the “arts” are not special.  They’re not specially endowed with creativity that others don’t have.

I’ll now pause to allow you to avoid choking to death over the cliched myth.  Ready to continue?  Ok.

Here’s the thing the cliches completely miss, the thing that it seems “artists” desperately want people to forget: everyone is creative.  Yes, everyone.  I would even argue that many professions that are not part of what we call “the arts” require more creativity than what most “artists” do.  Scientists, for instance, have to be incredibly creative as they probe the truths of the universe and come up with testable theories to explain how it works.  Engineers..don’t even get me started.

Ok, I’ll go there.

I’m trained as an Engineer, though for most of the last decade and a half I’ve done little real Engineering since I’ve been in the Navy.  But back when I was actually an Engineer, I won a few design contests, and conversed with lots of my fellow Engineers on a daily basis.  Let me tell you, it is REALLY hard to take a problem, design a solution that will actually work IN THE REAL WORLD, and then put it all together in a way that can be built.  Really hard.  It requires, not just creativity, but a mastery of mathematics and the physical sciences.  Frankly, I’ll put any Engineer on the planet up against any “artist” to see who is actually more creative, and the Engineer will win nine times out of ten.  But you’ll never see Engineers whining about how they have to suffer for their Engineering, or how they’re more depressed than other people because they’re so creative, or any of the other dreck you hear from “artists”.

“But Mike, you’re biased, because you’re an Engineer yourself.”  Well, maybe.  But I’ll you what: most Engineers I know also play music, or paint, or write, or whatever in their free time.  I know of almost no “artists” who could do Engineering in their free time if they wanted to.  What does that tell you?

But it goes further than that.  Architects, businessmen, landscapers, teachers, politicians, you name it: the list goes on and on for page after page of professions that require creativity to be successful.  Yes, I included politicians on that list.  Do you have any idea how creative you have to be to concoct lie after lie, many of which contradict each other, and somehow make it seem like you’re clean as the driven snow and the height of integrity?  Seriously, stand in awe, my friends.  But beyond that list, many people who don’t work in fields that necessarily require creativity routinely do creative things for fun, or to make their jobs more efficient.

So I stand by my statement that all people are creative.  Why, then, do those who practice “the arts” insist on calling themselves “creative” people?  Why do they insist on adopting the “tortured artist” mantle?

Of course, not all do.  Most do not, I’d wager.  But still, the cliched image and stereotype continues.  It’s silly.  Delusional.  It’s the height of insecurity, and not just for the artist.  Every other person out there, who by nature of being human is creative, just reveals his/her own insecurity by believing this tripe.  And of course, the “artist” who adopts it reveals his own insecurity because he’s putting on that stupid cloak of cliche and concealing who he really is.

But seriously, what the hell?  Really, you guys and gals who call yourselves “artists”, can you grow up please?  Repeat after me: YOU ARE NOT SPECIAL.  You don’t do something that other people can’t.  Maybe you’re better at it than some people are, but so what?  All sorts of people are better at all sorts of things than other people, but they don’t feel the need to put on airs, or wallow in depravity or self destruction, just to prove to themselves that they’re special.  Really, it’s immature and pathetic.  Get your head out of your ass.

You see, this is another reason why I will never call myself an “artist”.  “Artists” need to grow the hell up.


Ok, that’s it.  Rant over.

Feel free to flame away in the comments.  I can take it.