I got going on these thoughts again today because I've been regularly checking in on this blog called The Happiness Project. It's a blog dedicated to test-driving every principle, tip, theory, and scientific study done on creating more happiness in our overindulged and spoiled western lifestyle, where stores dedicated to selling $78 scented candles abound, but happiness does not. I find this site appealing because what it really seems to be about is leading more balanced and thoughtful life. And I'm interested in how this gimmicky website can actually educate people about leading a more meaningful existence, if not necessarily a more happy one. There was a post the other day titled Are Artists Unhappier than Non-Artists? Of course I had to dive right into that one, because it feeds all of my angst about society's stupid ideas about artists. My observation has been that artists are no more happy or unhappy than the culture at large. I think there is a general desire to have a romantic vision of the artist as tortured and neurotic to balance out the fact that we are supremely gifted. I personally think this vision is ultimately undermining to the artist, and encourages a lot of unfortunate behavior at art schools. But it also helps maintain the artist status as an exalted outsider, which is maybe what we need to get people to leave us alone so we can do our work. "I can't do the dishes right now, I'm having a break down. Now get outta my studio!"
I know that I am there is not an unhappier person on the planet than an artist who is not-- or can't -- make work. But unhappy just because we're artists? I don't think so. Writer Elizabeth Gilbert touches on a lot of these points in the talk I posted below. Please watch.