“In the creative process every human being is confronted with doubts and contradictions and flaws…”
Acclaimed for his films including “Amores Perros,” “Babel” and “21 Grams,” Alejandro González Iñárritu has earned a number of award nominations for directing and co-writing “Birdman.”
In a theatre, we can enjoy the results of sometimes hundreds of talented people collaborating on making a movie, but there may be many years of often messy and emotionally challenging creative process that goes into getting a film actually produced and released. Iñárritu has made a number of interesting comments about that process.
In the 1960s, paintings of “sad-eyed children,” massively reproduced in posters and cards, became possibly the best-selling art in the world for a time, thanks to the tireless marketing by Walter Keane of “his” work. The “big eyes” images were owned by celebrities and hung in many permanent collections.
But Walter Keane was a fraud and plagiarist: the art was actually created by his wife Margaret Keane.
“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” ― Albert Einstein
Stories, perhaps especially the more elaborate and potent examples of fantasy and fairytale, can do more than entertain: they can reveal how others, and ourselves, manage being human. And how we can do better at it.
“The artist begins with a vision — a creative operation requiring effort. Creativity takes courage.” Henri Matisse
What fears and anxieties are holding you back from expressing yourself more creatively? Matisse and many other artists and psychologists note creative work requires courage or dealing with our fears.
[Continued from Part 1]
What does creative excellence take?
In his article How to Win American Idol, psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman refers to research by Rena Subotnik and Linda Jarvin, who “interviewed over 80 top students at different stages of their musical careers and identified the traits important to succeed at every stage on the way to the top.
“The three abilities that were absolutely necessary as a baseline were intrinsic motivation, charisma, and musicality.”
But for musicians at an “elite” level of talent, “technical proficiency mattered less and the following factors rose to prominence: self-promotion skills, having a good agent, capitalizing on strengths, overcoming self-doubt, exuding self-confidence, good social skills, persevering through criticisms and defeats, and taking risks.”
How does a brutal teaching style impact those factors?
“I push people beyond what’s expected of them. I believe that is an absolute necessity.”
How much does forceful mentoring help students achieve excellence, and when does it become abusive?
Those issues are part of the movie Whiplash, apparently named after the jazz standard by Hank Levy.
The quote above is by acclaimed teacher Terence Fletcher (JK Simmons) at a music school reputed to be “one of the best in the country,” explaining his teaching approach to one of his star pupils, Andrew (Miles Teller), who idolizes jazz drummer Buddy Rich, and has aspirations to also be “one of the greats.”
Even very talented people may experience fraud or impostor feelings, which can lead to insecurity about their abilities, despite their accomplishments.
“I always feel like something of an impostor. I don’t know what I’m doing.”
Jodie Foster made that comment in her acceptance speech as recipient of the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award several years ago.
A highly accomplished actor, director and producer, Foster also said, “I suppose that’s my one little secret, the secret of my success.”
From my article: Jodie Foster on impostor feelings and faking it.
“Basically, I’d been fairly drunk or high since I was 14.” Colin Farrell
Why do so many creative people use and abuse drugs, often to the point of addiction?
There is of course no easy answer, but one of the factors for many people may be childhood trauma.
In his article Emotional Trauma: An Often Overlooked Root of Addiction, David Sack, M.D. writes, “A history of childhood neglect or sexual, physical or emotional abuse is common among people undergoing treatment for alcoholism and may be a factor in the development of alcohol use disorders…
“Trauma has been associated not only with drug addiction but also overeating, compulsive sexual behavior and other types of addictions.”
Another article notes, “Children who have a history of abuse, neglect, or trauma may exhibit oppositional behavior as a response to their experiences. Experiencing any kind of traumatic event increases a child’s likelihood of acting out, as they must cope with challenging feelings, thoughts, and memories.”
So many people experience unwanted sexual contact, rape and other forms of sexual abuse.
And they often help deal with the aftermath through creative expression, perhaps using art therapy, but more often some other form of creative self-expression.
One of many articles on the topic here on Psych Central, Mental Disorders Often Follow Sexual Abuse by Rick Nauert PhD, reports: “Researchers have discovered that a history of sexual abuse is frequently linked with a lifetime diagnosis of multiple psychiatric disorders…this association held true regardless of the victim’s gender or age when the abuse occurred.”
There are many references and articles on “healing” from sexual abuse and other kinds of trauma, but it is important to keep in mind the emotional and spiritual impacts may endure, at least to some degree; dealing with abuse is not like healing a broken bone.
But experiencing abuse of any kind also does not make us “damaged goods” – see actor Teri Hatcher’s comments below.
The painting is a self portrait by Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653). An article notes she was raped by an art tutor of hers, followed by a “highly publicised seven-month trial. This event makes up the central theme of a controversial French film, Artemisia (1998), directed by Agnes Merlet.
How important is it to identify yourself as an artist – to others, and especially to yourself?
What if you don’t get awards for your creative work? What if it isn’t even seen by others?
Are you still an artist if you are doing something else for survival?
Psychologist Robert Maurer has worked with many creative people and researches the dynamics of success. He comments:
“The people who love their craft and see themselves as artists, and carry that identity through and study each day… are the people who thrive. To me, that’s the only definition of success that matters.”