April 7th, 2012
Over at the Guardian, AL Kennedy has written a piece about something that we here at Sideshow couldn’t agree more with: the myth that misery is necessary for creativity, and why it needs to die a quick death as soon as possible. The entire article is worth a read, but here’s a quick taste:
I have been trying to write for at least a quarter of a century, and I can say very firmly that in my experience, suffering is largely of no bloody use to anyone, and definitely not a prerequisite for creation. If an artist has managed to take something appalling and make it into art, that’s because the artist is an artist, not because something appalling is naturally art.
A lot of artists have a hard time of it. It’s a fact of life. It comes with choosing a career with no particularly defined path, no guarantee of financial success, and a value system based largely on subjective judgments by people you’ve never met. These do not necessarily lead to a life of comfort, luxury, or good dental plans. But there’s nothing inherent in the lifestyle that requires the exclusion of happiness: misery does not breed better art, or more effective art, or more “legitimate” art. Like Kennedy says: good artists make good art because they are good, not because of the particular circumstances that they live in.
We here at Sideshow know this pretty well. Our entire staff is made up of incredible volunteers who dedicate huge amounts of time and energy to keeping the company running and producing the work that we love. We do pay the artists we work with, but believe us when we tell you that nobody’s getting rich off their production stipends. This is the way that it is for Sideshow, but we don’t do it because we feel like it’s better that way. It is not an ascetic ideal to which we are aspiring. It is, instead, the way that things currently are by necessity, and as we develop and grow as a company our aim is to make it less and less necessary with each passing season. Nothing about a volunteer staff is intrinsic to the work that we do: we do what we do because of passion and commitment, and the artistic products we create are an immense reward. As we keep growing and are able to support more and more of those we work with financially, it will only help further express our passion and commitment, because everyone involved will be able to commit even more time and energy to what they do and making it as awesome as they can.
Again: artists should not go into their fields expecting to live comfortable lifestyles, or feeling necessarily entitled to one. Nothing is owed to you in the arts until you have earned it, just like as in any other profession. You have to work at it, and you have to commit, and yes, you probably have to do a lot of things for free off the bat and just because you commit and are excited and good does not mean you will be immediately met with riches. But you should also not expect to live unhappily. You shouldn’t seek out situations that are make you that way. Instead, find the art and the process and the people that make you happy, and inspire you, and assist you in the creation of the best art possible. Because then you’ll be the best artist you can be, and chances are good that you’ll be happy to be that way.