Recovering The SelfA Journal of Hope and Healing

Arts & Literature

What does it mean to be a true artist?

Guest post by Alfredo Zotti

What does it mean to be a true artist? I ask this because there are certainly different types of artists. A true artist, for me, is one who understands that, as existential psychologist Rollo May suggests, every organism has one central need in life and that is to fulfill its own potentiality.artbyalfredo

If we don’t do that, attempt to fulfill our potentiality, we are certainly going to suffer. But the true artist also knows that this should not be done selfishly but with the greater good in mind. In fact, a true artist also knows, as Rollo May again suggests, that it is important to serve the world in terms of attempting to change our world into a better place, to help the people that we meet, and to help ourselves along this complex process.

The greatest way to help the world is to find our own center, to find who we are and, if we do this with a good heart, we find that our mind knows how to achieve this naturally because we were programmed to do so even though we have somehow lost our way in a world that is becoming increasingly materialistic, selfish and greedy.

And how do we know if a person is a true artist? Is it by her ability to draw? or paint? or play music? or write creatively? Certainly not. We are all creativity, to some extent, and our creativity can be expressed in many ways, as I have argued extensively in my first book: An Artist Creative Life with Bipolar Disorder.

It is to develop a love and respect for life; to learn to embrace fear and failure as part of life; to not be afraid to fail; to understand that suffering, when it occurs naturally (ie not self inflicted) is part of life. To not have fear to live but to embrace life in all its complexity: fear, joy, sadness, suffering, happiness, success, failures, and so on. Only when we stop being fearful and find the courage to embrace life and create an authentic life can we become true artist. We then become able to help ourselves and to help the people along the way. This all comes naturally if we work towards improving our lives in a positive way. It can be done, it is very possible, it only takes courage to accept life as it is and make the best of it for ourselves and the people around us. It is very possible.

An artist, then, is a person who lives a creative life in that they are able to create their own life where they are the central character. And the central character is a person who is able to accept life, the good and the bad. That is a true artist not just someone who expressed their talents, whatever they may be. For in the end we will only have to deal with a mind, no material stuff at all. But I suspect that that is the next stage of our existence when we finally loose the need for material things and realize that our mind has all it need to create an authentic and creative life.

Potentially we are all artists, but only a few have the courage to live a creative life. I certainly have this courage and I have proved it by writing freely about my life, about my bipolar disorder, and about my faults as a person. This is what it means to be a true artist, to help others through one’s own suffering, joys, failures and successes. The creative life is one of sharing and giving and growing through this process. This is what life is all about, I believe. And this is what it means to be a true artist.

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