If we want uncover what makes us unique, then we must do the work that others are unwilling to do: the rigorous task of constant self-actualization. Raising our own self-awareness will deepen our connection with others, and our work will have depth that resonates on a profound level with others.
We can begin self-actualization by defining what we want out of our life. What are we trying to create? A life like [enter person here]? Another Eat Pray Love book? Another painting like Mona Lisa? Another electronic dance music (EDM) hit single? And most importantly, why do we need another one of any of these? Imitation is derivative, but true art is original.
“Marcel Duchamp, also an artist, puts an upside down urinal into an art exhibit in 1917, causes a riot–this is art–Not art, is the second person who puts a urinal in an art museum. They’re a plumber.” – Seth Godin
If it’s already done, an imitation of that particular thing is just a mere copy. The world needs less plumbers, and more artists. People who can uncover and express things from deep within themselves. True artists provide a service to the world much greater than any paycheck can pay. They know the value of what they do, and aren’t controlled by vanity metrics like (excessive) money and fame. Yes, we all need to eat and pay rent–but how much do we really need for that? And is our fear of going broke much more powerful than finding peace and expression within ourselves? Did we enter our career because of the potential wealth? Or was it because we felt a calling from some force within to express a message? Unfortunately, some people are seduced into becoming an “artist” because of fame and fortune. They are not aware how doomed they’ve become by restricting themselves to parameters of money, validation and fame. In the end, the freedom they sought becomes the (gold) bars of their solitary prison. If we want validation, there are easier ways to achieve that. But if we wish to engage in a daily battle with our deepest feelings and insecurities, express our repressed emotions, to turn the abstract into tangible art, then we can begin to make work that matters. Our task is arduous, and great art requires constant awareness of our motivations.
To prevent falling into this trap, we must form a vision of what we want in the long term. If it so happens that money is a primary motivation, our art (and by extension us) will suffer with the volatility of working in a art industry. Anyone who controls our paycheck will control our art, and by extension us. We don’t want this. Many of us chose the lifestyle of creating art and self-expression because we want to experience the freedom of being ourselves. Why would we give that up? Let’s not go back there. We must remember that we are creating lasting art that will live on longer than us. Eventually, we too will return to the stillness of the Earth.
“It is from stillness that all things emerge and to which all things return.” – Lao Tzu
We must teach ourselves to be comfortable with stillness. To create art that transforms a generation, we must be in a constant process of transformation within ourselves. We must seek out experiences that are new and sometimes uncomfortable so that we can create new neural pathways in our brain. And we will see new connections within our life and art as well. There’s very few good reasons to work so hard and endure many difficulties in life just to emulate someone else. We are in the process of creating a first-rate version of ourselves rather than a derivative of anyone (or anything) else. The depth of our art will depend on how deep we can go within ourselves. If we are not comfortable sitting down in silence and going deep, our work will resonate a fearful and superficial tone. We must constantly practice this skill of exploring the parts within ourselves that others fear to dive within themselves.
Most importantly, let’s make sure we are the best versions of ourselves. One of the many rewards of self-actualization will be that our art will be just as vibrant and resonant as our soul. To create unique art, we must be willing to undergo unique experiences within ourselves. You become your art.
This article was originally posted on Medium.
Jay-Ram is a former Industrial Chemist turned writer who aims to help others use deductive reason and the scientific process to gain deeper insight into people, and create deeper, meaningful relationships between his fellow humans.