The Double-Edge Sword of Progress

Agriculture marks one of the most profound turning points in human history. Human beings were able to turn energy previously reserved for sustenance into creative forces and thus the builder, inventor, and artist were born. Later, the increase claim to ownership of land began to force people out of tribal sustenance and into a more modern society. There was no longer a choice; people have always needed a safe space to sleep and food (or a place to grow it) and currency became a requirement of this world of private property. Ever since this point, the artist has struggled between the need to create and the need to make money.

In general, people need to have their physiological needs and a feeling of safety before being able to self-actualize (create art). However, if the artist grew up with any sense of security, he was likely exposed to his creative side. However, once thrust into the cold world, the struggle begins. Once exposed to the state of self-actualization, the need to create becomes almost as important as the need to eat.

The capitalistic, post-modern world has generated all sorts of excesses, so it would be reasonable to think that artists would flourish in such a place. However, the competition is ever increasing. Not only are populations growing denser than ever, but we also might be competing with those halfway around the world in a way never imagined possible even 100 years ago; the local winner-take-all has become the national winner-take-all or even the global. The artist can no longer travel to improve the chances of winning the struggle. The only thing left is to stand your ground in the face of increasing competition or give up, so should we even try?

The idealist in me says yes. The artist must create, so you might as well give it your best shot if you are young.

Let’s assume you are going to go all out for success as a creative; what do you need? The first thing I would recommend is always to be learning in several different disciplines. The best shot you have at doing something truly new or original will likely come from making far-reaching connections. Also, information has never been more accessible. If remain hungry to learn a multitude of ideas, you will have the edge over the artist who never had access to the Internet and the modern, siloed academic. In the list of learning, I would have to recommend some marketing and business literature. You likely will not be able to hire anyone else for many years, so you will likely need marketing and business skills to make it in the modern world. I would also recommend learning different mediums to express yourself so that you can create rarely explored combinations. For example, you could set your poetry to an animated video.

The next recommendation I would have is to master your craft or your mediums. It isn’t enough just to write or just to paint with oil. You must study literature through a writers lens or learn the intricacies of different oil painting techniques. If you study your mediums well-enough, there is a chance you could create a new style, better utilize a new technique, or break an old rule to create something new. The most famous example of this type of breakthrough is Leonardo da Vinci. He spent years studying light and optics when to help him realize that the human eye does not see sharp outlines of objects, but instead, the background and the object blend together. He used the recently created sfumato style to blend the background and object to create a life-like effect.

Many others have a much more realistic view of creativity; Jordan Peterson describes creativity in the modern world as a curse. The creative who is exposed to his calling will be forced to choose between the two powerful urges. Peterson cites statistics in one of his lectures that only about 15% of published songs get at least a singled download while a select few (around 0%) get millions. I have a hard time disagreeing that you should play it safe when faced with starvation and practice your creativity on the side; there is a good reason that many artists were either supported by their own wealthy family or a wealthy patron throughout history.

You will face further challenges even if you do become mildly successful. Others may exert influence, or you may feel internal pressure to make money from your art which can disrupt the initial purity of your intentions. Selling out and dumbing it down for the masses can be an appealing strategy when facing with consistent uncertainty throughout your life. However, it is hard to ignore that the risk-takers drive society and innovation forward; they are both the cursed and the savior, and most of them will never be famous. If you think you have found your calling in a creative endeavor when you are young, it is hard for me not to recommend that you give it a try. Whether you succeed or fail, then at least you will have learned a multitude of marketable skills that can be useful somewhere.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *