Myth: Loneliness of the Long-Distance Artist

Michelangelo BuonarottiThere are a lot of myths floating around out there regarding artists and how artists “should” be. (I’m sure you can think of a few.)

There’s one myth that may not be so obvious right off the bat, but it’s out there: artists are/should be lonely, kind of like the Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. Some people think that:

  • A songwriter can’t write good songs without a broken heart.
  • You have to be a tortured poet, a bleeding heart.
  • The artist has to toil for hours on end, shut off from the world like a monk in a cell, slaving away in the studio.

Well, some of us may actually like some of this. I know I’d personally rather be in the studio painting than in a crowded room full of socialites, but that’s just my introverted bent. The problem is, being alone too much isn’t healthy. Loneliness is a problem.

So let’s dispel the myth: you don’t have to be lonely to be an artist! But you don’t have to be a socialite, either. Let’s look at two artists who were known for their solitude and gregariousness, respectively: Michelangelo and Raphael. Michelangelo was moody and wanted to be left alone. Raphael, on the other hand, always had an entourage with him and he was the life of the party. They were both great at what they did. Raphael died young; Michelangelo died old. Was one more right or successful or happy than the other? I can’t really say. (It’s not my place.)

Just don’t fall into a stereotype blindly, or let people box you into their myth-fed idea of what artists are supposed to do. Neither path is more correct than the other — but be sure you know which path you choose, being conscious of it. And it is a choice.

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