The Value of Art for Art’s Sake

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Today is Tax Deadline Day (That’s right: This year’s deadline is actually April 18) where many of us are thinking about… well… money, when it comes right down to it. But as an artist, money can mean many different things. It can signify success, yes, but it can also feel like a weight, tying you down to a specific outcome, if, for instance, you have been hired to create something for someone else. It can signify a form of approval or validation–when someone buys our art it’s usually because they like it. Most of us need to feel that kind of validation once in a while. But in the case of Art for Art’s Sake, it’s a different scenario.

The idea of Art for Art’s Sake or Art for Self is something that’s been on my mind lately. I truly believe that the need of other’s approval can be an artist’s/writer’s undoing. The making of art purely for self-expression can be one of the most fulfilling ways to create. There is a vast and diverse spectrum of motivations for human creativity, and all have played a role in contributing to the world’s greatest masterpieces.

But Art for Art’s Sake seems to me one of the purest, and it has been a creed of mine since the day I proclaimed myself an artist (at age 11), but it’s tough not to stray from this path. I have found that if I do stray… if I find myself motivated by ego or money, for instance, what I’m creating ends up adversely affected. When I write for myself and put the good of the story first, what I turn out is equally affected but in a wholly positive way. The first draft is always and only for me. The last draft is often for others. Steven King said, “Write with the door shut. Edit with the door open.” That is great advice.

But does the need for monetary compensation, or the desire to share what we’ve created, and in turn, to be applauded, muddle the process? This is a question that has arisen since I have entered the world of publication and promotion. I must admit, my desire for an audience has grown stronger in the last few years, born first from the need to give back to a world that has given so much to me.

There was a time when it seemed all I did was take from the artistic world (writing and creating in a vacuum without ever sharing any of it). Several years ago I came to the decision that it was time for this love affair to be reciprocal. And perhaps my age had something to do with it as well. The knowledge that my life was nearly half over (if I’m lucky), prompted in me the desire to leave something behind. I never had children of my own. My books are my only legacy… the only proof that I have existed.

The “creative muses” have been very generous to me. So how do I return the favor? I can make sure my words teach, guide, lift spirits, open hearts, and promote a reverence for life in others the way my favorite books have done for me. I wish to be a part of the family of writers that have changed the world one heart/mind at a time. Yes, these are tall aspirations, but it is a deep desire in me that grows stronger every year I walk this beautiful earth.

And if I knew that from this day forward, no one would ever read my books? Yes, I would still write, still tell my stories, because they breathe within me and need to breathe outside me. Once a story is emerging inside, I cannot deny its existence. My innate creative nature takes over at some point and the process develops a life of its own. Art must be born.

I had a great art teacher in college. I will never forget what he said about the nature of creativity. It was in a Three-Dimensional Design class. He strolled over to the student sitting next to me who was staring at a lump of clay. When asked, she said “I don’t know what to do. I can’t do it.” He responded by saying, “You don’t think you can run out to the ocean and stop the next wave do you? Art will happen. The first thing we must learn is how NOT to stand in its way.”

I remember thinking BRAVO! All the ideas humans have about art, the list of “reasons” they create, muddy the process. Indeed, the art that has touched me through the years has usually been created by someone who was “driven” to create. These are my people and my heart recognizes them. Some have wondered if Van Gogh, who sold but a single painting during his lifetime (The Vin Rouge) ever felt the sting of his inability to find an audience. If he’s in this family of soul-driven artists I spoke of above (and I believe he is) then the answer is no, not while he was creating. During the act of creation, there is nothing but the creation…there is not even an artist, just the art. That is how it feels.

When I write, I, as the conduit, eventually disappear, transmuted into energy, a presence, like wind on water…able to influence the surface, but the depth and breadth below is a quality unto itself. For this kind of artist, the only time you think of an audience is after the fact, when you see what has come through you and want to share it (or you’re starving and have a sincere desire to eat).

Art has always been an inner path for me, and a personal driving force in my life. And although I am now pursuing a more outward path (of publication and promotion), the thought of where my art will end up never enters my creative process, and therefore is not muddled by future agendas. I suppose the question of Art for Art’s Sake is for each artist to answer for themselves. For me, the process of creation is as natural as lightning seeking ground. We all need an outlet for this amazing energy coursing through us. I choose to create… to write… songs, stories, thoughts and ideas. This is my outlet. What is yours?

 

Elayne G. James is the author of the adventure/
fantasy coming-of-age series, The LightBridge 
Legacy, a new holiday novel titled The Saint of 
Carringtion, and the upcoming Dragonbond Books.
For more info visit: http://www.ElayneJames.com
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What I Learned From Starship Captains

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Welcome to Part Three of How to Be the Hero of Your Own Story. I just have to say, this is the most fun I’ve had with research in a long time! I’ve learned so much from the heroes I’ve studied… things that have changed my life (no lie).

What follows is my favorite list by far (being the fantasy/sci-fi geek that I am). Starship captains are some of the BEST heroes to learn from because of the standards they hold themselves to in everyday life and the myriad situations that put those standards to the test.

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Here is what I have learned from studying Starship Captains…
•    Never give up.
•    Never lose your sense of humor.
•    Never let unbeatable odds get you down.
•    Negative thinking is a complete waste of time (and extremely destructive).
•    Always care more about people than situations or possessions.
•    Always work for the greater good.
•    Never lose sight of the goal, but stay aware of what’s around you.

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  • Never compromise your personal vision. Know who you are and be it. Know your path and walk it.
  • Don’t let anyone tell you not to do what you know is right.
  • Never waver in your resolve, but adapt the plan when appropriate or advantageous.
  • Stay open to new points of view.
  • Put heart in everything you do.
  • Always remain positive even in the face of certain failure.

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  •    Choose your attitude. Don’t let someone else choose for you.
  •    If there’s no other way, play rough.
  •    Pick your battles carefully. Don’t make fighting your first choice. If you have to fight, win. If you   don’t have to fight, head for an exit.
  •    Never make someone feel ‘less than’ for voicing an opinion or idea.
  •    Consider all options outwardly, weigh your options inwardly, state your decision affirmatively.
  •    Listen to the council of  close friends and  brilliant colleagues, then make your own decision.

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  • Allow yourself to trust even after you’ve been hurt.
  • Never forget where you come from.
  • If you’re lost, remember there’s always a way  back, even if you can’t see it.
  • Establish your intention and choose your direction at the start of each new day.
  • Be an optimist and realist at the same time.
  • Be open to trying new things (even if they sometimes get you in trouble).

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  •    Choose a path  that can coexist with your  values and spiritual  beliefs.
  •    Embrace any chance to grow.
  •    Allow yourself to be vulnerable to your closest friends and family.
  •    Admit when you’re wrong.
  •    Stay physically fit and mentally aware.
  •    Pay attention to what people say and do.

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  • If an idea or a relationship isn’t working, give it every chance to succeed, then assess the situation fairly, and if it is still not working, abort.
  • Stretch your mind and the limits of your reality.
  • Never insist on being right, instead, always look for truth.
  • Define your mission. Recruit those who are aligned with your vision.
  • Never fear an adventure into the unknown.
  • Listen to your instincts and use your intuition.

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  •    Live in the now, but be open and ready for what lies ahead.
  •    Heal the wounds of the past. Don’t allow past pain to limit your present or your future.
  •    Study human interaction and apply the science of compassion.
  •    Be an advocate of the human spirit.
  •    Embrace ingenuity and creativity.
  •    Be passionate while maintaining control.
  •    Eyes open. Always.

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  • Be an impartial witness. Don’t take sides.
  • Use your heart along with your head.
  • Never abandon manners in a social situation. Learn the customs of foreign cultures before entering their domain.
  • Never complain about unfortunate circumstances.
  • Embrace change but respect history.
  • Don’t let your temper get the better of you. But if it does, get over it quickly.
  • Listen to people’s stories.

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  • Communicate as concisely and accurately as possible. Use clear, simple language.
  • Do not be quick to judge.
  • Develop a sixth sense about danger and who to trust.
  • Never let fear stop you. Allow it to inform you.
  • Listen to your  gut, even if your head refuses to go along.
  • Take responsibility for those under you r command. Inspire greatness. Encourage ingenuity. Cultivate loyalty.

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  •    Don’t waste time arguing or responding to criticism.
  •    Be open-minded in your approach to life and old fashion in your values.
  •    Embrace a childlike fascination with the world  and a wise man acceptance of it.
  •    When possible go slow, build a foundation.
  •    Don’t defend your ego. Defend your friends.
  •    Make forgiveness a priority because it is the only way to be free.
  •    Don’t get angry at yourself for things that are beyond your control.
  •    Wait patiently, but not passively. Always be gathering information.

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  • Believe in something greater than yourself.
  • Walk with purpose through life.
  • Always act as if what you do will make a difference.
  • Express anger at situations instead of at people.
  • Cultivate a quiet calm in the face of adversity. Don’t be quick to react or jump to conclusions, but instead, quietly assess the situation and formulate a plan based on acute observation.
  • Be in a constant state of readiness with utter calm.

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  • Never make another person feel small. Evaluate those around you and honor them for their skills, traits, and contributions… if need be, find the smallest positive attribute to praise.
  • Rid your mind and heart of expectation and enter each moment with a clean slate. With zero expectations, the mind is never disappointed or caught unawares.
  • Resist the temptation to overreact, or become upset at a difficult interlude. Always be looking for more pieces to the puzzle, and continue to gather information in an effort to see and comprehend the whole picture before making a decision to act. And then, when ready, move forward with full conviction.

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That’s the Captain’s List. See you next time when I share my own personal list of Hero Traits, in Lessons Learned from Life and Leaders.

Thanks for spending time with me!

Elayne

Elayne G. James is the author of the adventure/
fantasy coming-of-age series, The LightBridge 
Legacy, a new holiday novel titled The Saint of 
Carringtion, and the upcoming Dragonbond Books.
For more info visit: http://www.ElayneJames.com

How to be the Hero of your Own Story – Part Two

Are you the hero of your own story?

Heroes

Your life is your story. Your choices are your path. Don’t let someone else choose for you. Take the lead. Be your own hero!

As a writer and a student of human nature, I have the on-going pleasure of studying the many different aspects of life, our world, and its varied characters. One of the most fascinating of these is our culture’s archetypes, and heroes are arguably among of the most enduring and endearing of the archetypal class. Heroes in their myriad forms have been requisite to story, myth, and legend throughout the history of humankind. What follows is Part Two of my hero traits list… a collection of high caliber qualities and attributes I believe we can all aspire to:

  • Heroes don’t “chase” their dreams. They set goals, put a plan in place, gather the best team they can find (only those loyal to their cause), and then create their own destiny!
  • A hero knows that words have the ability to wound or heal, destroy or transform. A hero uses words carefully and speaks truth willingly. A hero is never threatened by the truth, nor defeated or dejected by someone else’s version of the truth.
  • Heroes do not seek the approval of others, their validation comes from within.
  • A hero knows that the best way to cope with failure is to immediately identify it as a “rerouting” on the path to success.
  • Heroes know that they are constantly evolving —that they can reinvent themselves whenever necessary—that for a personality, stagnation equals defeat. Forward movement equals success.
  • A hero knows that there are always two choices in a difficult situation. You can choose to be the victim or the victor. The hero always chooses the victor mentality. He knows that victimhood is the act of falling prey to one’s own defeated thinking and a belief in powerlessness.
  • Victims always wish they were somewhere else, doing something else, or with someone else. Heroes never wish they were somewhere else. If they wanted to be somewhere else they would just go.
  • A hero does not indulge in self-pity. Self-pity equals powerlessness.
  • Heroes aren’t afraid of change (unless it’s a change of clothes in a phone booth).
  • Heroes don’t waste time complaining. They focus on solutions.
  • A hero knows that it is human nature to question, and does not need to be excepted or encouraged by others in order to proceed with an intention.
  • Heroes always follow through on a promise whether made to someone else or to themselves.
  • Heroes never react to what they imagine someone else thinks, wants, or needs. They ask questions, gather data, assess the situation, and, once satisfied, act accordingly.
  • A hero knows that nothing of greatness, no true measure of happiness, no deeply satisfying accomplishment, is ever achieved without desire and faith, vision and imagination, effort and energy, courage and commitment, purpose and passion.
  • Heroes own their own potential and see the power in responsibility. Taking ownership is the highest form of focus, discipline, and direction known to man. Effortlessness is an insidious virus with the power to destroy lives.
  • A hero knows that absolute focus is the key to all great human achievement.
  • Heroes never let mistakes or failure stop them. They always try to make things right, but also know that it isn’t always possible, and forgive themselves when things don’t work out. They know the value of moving on.
  • Heroes don’t waste time responding to their critics. They take note, retain what is useful and discard what is not.
  • A hero sees every problem as a challenge and every challenge as an opportunity.
  • Heroes learn from every situation and grow into better human beings because of the experience.
  • Heroes do not compare themselves to others.
  • A hero uses their past experiences to meet the next challenge, not to judge themselves.
  • A hero doesn’t throw away any lesson. All lessons, pleasant or difficult, joyful or painful, brief or everlasting, can be drawn upon for support when facing a challenge.
  • Heroes keep an open mind when entering a new situation, and keep a watchful eye for that which can benefit them and others.
  • Life is a set of experiences. A hero does not judge. All experience is useful.
  • The hero never gives up.

The hero’s journey continues in Part III (What I Learned From Starship Captains). See you next time!

E.G.James