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Artists are Crazy; Mothers Can’t Be Artists, and Other Myths

Writer, poet, playwright and filmmaker Julia Cameron says she sometimes asks people to list ten traits they think artists have.

She reports they say things like “artists are broke,” “artists are crazy,” “artists are drug-addicted” and “artists are drunk.”

Cameron asks, “Doesn’t this make you want to rush right out and become an artist?

“We have a mythology in America around creativity that’s very, very negative.”

From my post You want to be an artist? Are you crazy?

Other ideas about creators include these:

“Artists must be poor and sacrifice their well-being for their art.”

“Artists are ‘bad’ at marketing.”

“Artists should accept the solitary life and find solutions on their own.”

“You can’t be a mother and a successful artist.”

“Artists are right-brained and aren’t very good at left-brain stuff like running a business.”

Those are a few of the kinds of self-limiting beliefs and myths that Alyson Stanfield of Art Biz Coach says she helps artists to overcome, in order to achieve more effective personal and business success.

Gendered conceptions

Sally Reis, PhD. points out that “female writers, artists, scientists and creators in all domains deal with male conceptions of creativity and a creative process that has been accepted as the standard within that domain, but may only be the standard for male creators.”

From her article Toward a Theory of Creativity in Diverse Creative Women. Reis is author of the book Work Left Undone: Choices and Compromises of Talented Women.

Another myth is an artist must be “troubled” or have suffered.

“Suffering is justified as soon as it becomes the raw material of beauty.” Jean-Paul Sartre

That’s from my post Pain and suffering and developing creativity, which also quotes other people, including musician Sting.

Actor Meg Ryan expressed an interesting perspective on this topic, saying “I don’t think you want to cultivate dramatic and traumatic experiences in your life in order to be an artist. I think that’s all wrong. But you can use them… there’s a redemptive power in your life when you go through hardships.” [LA Times, Oct 5 2003.]

We can translate myths or at least this kind of thinking into concrete self-talk that Eric Maisel, PhD notes may function as “linguistic tricks to help mask our budding anxiety” around creative work.

He gives some examples:

“I won’t be ready to call that gallery owner for another few weeks.”
“I don’t feel like auditioning for parts that require an accent.”
“I always feel spaced out in critique sessions.”
“I couldn’t ask such a famous artist to look at my work.”
“I can’t draw on muggy days.”
“I can’t see the point in auditioning for that – I’m just not the type.”

Maisel is author of the book Mastering Creative Anxiety.

Inner voices

Writer/photographer Jan Phillips has commented, “Ask any woman about the inner voices that keep her from her creative work and chances are she’ll have a litany a mile long.

“They’re voices we inherit along the way, from our parents, our teachers, the culture, the church – voices that say ‘I’m not smart enough, I’m not good enough, I don’t have a story worth telling, I’m not creative, I shouldn’t stand out’ – they’re all (k)nots that keep us bound up and silent.”

Jan Phillips is author of Marry Your Muse.

Of course, we men may live with those kinds of voices too.

Overcoming limiting beliefs

Morty Lefkoe developed the Lefkoe Belief Process to overcome limiting beliefs, and found his clients “were able to make radical changes in their behavior by eradicating the beliefs that caused the behavior. Frequently, there also were meaningful emotional changes.”

[From his article How To Eliminate Some Of Your Negative Emotions… For Good.]

His belief change program is acclaimed by many people, including personal growth and success author Jack Canfield, and you can try it for free at ReCreate Your Life.]

The solitary artist

Another common myth is the idea of the lone artist – that you need to do it all on your own – an idea that as an introvert, I buy into all too readily.

Life and business coach Jennifer Lee, in an interview by Carmen Torbus, 
advises creative people to “Enlist support. Find like-minded, supportive souls who are also pursuing their creative dreams. Ask for help and help others. Remember you don’t have to fly solo.

She adds, “I’m grateful to be part of a Nurture Huddle. We’re a small group of friends/creative bloggers who connect on a conference call every other week for 90 minutes.”

Jennifer Lee is a “certified coach, author, artist, and yogini,” and provides multiple products and resources for creative businesses at her site Artizen Coaching.

So even for presumably “solitary” creative work like writing, social support can be valuable. And we are better off by not accepting all myths about creative people. Think for yourself, right?

Do you have a myth or belief that has kept you from being as creative as you want to be?

[Upper photo: Street Painter by pedrosimoes7; lower photo: Winona Ryder as Jo in the movie Little Women.]


Artists are Crazy; Mothers Can’t Be Artists, and Other Myths

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2014). Artists are Crazy; Mothers Can’t Be Artists, and Other Myths. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 16, 2018, from


Last updated: 15 Jan 2014
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 15 Jan 2014
Published on All rights reserved.