Establishing oneself as a professional artist is excruciatingly difficult in the United States. The American social system does not support nor does it encourage artistic aspiration. This is mainly because of capitalism, i.e., there is no monetary value in a novice work of art, thus, it is not invested in.
As a result of this resistance toward artistic aspiration, most striving artists suffer socially, economically, emotionally, and spiritually, which typically leads to an abandonment of dreams. I used to think this is tragic and unjust; it upset me and made me mad. However, the more I give filmmaking a go, the more I realize this resistance is a good thing.
When I decided to go to law school in 2003, I was socially, economically, emotionally, and spiritually supported. It was easy; everything fell into place. All I had to do was sign-off on student loans and show up to class. People were proud of me and encouraged me. And I felt spiritually grounded because I was comfortable. However, when I decided to drop-out and pursue a more personal passion, filmmaking, the support pretty much dissipated. I went from a top-tier law school student to a 31-year-old substitute teacher who wants to make movies. I was questioned, mocked, and humiliated.
Most people lack vision, so they will attack, criticize, and ridicule artistic aspiration. Rather than focus on the honesty and courage it takes to create, most look at the imperfect final product and devalue its creator. This is immature, selfish, and hateful. It’s a form of emotional and spiritual murder. But that’s how it goes and I doubt I’m going to change that. Rather, I have learned to embrace this injustice and see its benefits.
Resistance towards artistic aspiration has many latent benefits. First, it weeds out the hacks. Many dream of being a famous artist, but few really have the talent and the discipline, so they give up. Most are not called to be an artist to begin with and it’s a good thing that they give up; it’s good for us and for them.
Second, resistance builds character. Hate, discouragement, and indifference are like weights; you are forced to muscle them, which can build you up or kill you. If you keep on pumping those weights, you will become stronger and more resilient yourself. In fact, the more “famous” you become as an artist, the more resistance you will face, so the weights just get heavier, hopefully leading to greater character and better work.
Third, resistance forces you to become a better artist. Although it may be deeply painful, you are challenged to improve your work. In most cases, an artist is ignored because his/her work is not good, full of cliche, cheap mimicry. A mature artist will acknowledge this reality and strive to improve, to be more personal. Sure, even great art is often ignored due to subjectivity, ignorance, and fear; however, there will always be appreciation somewhere for good art if the artist continues to persevere.
Most importantly, resistance toward artistic aspiration leads to more authentic relationships. As the aspiring artist evolves, so to will his/her priorities, values, and perspectives. Superficial, vain, and unhealthy elements in life will no longer matter to the artist, thus, they will be drawn to and attract similar folks. The artist will be inspired by their new community of courageous, bold, and beautiful human beings. And though it may be painful, some people in the artist’s life will reject them and ostracize them, but that’s okay because these people are toxic and need to be distanced if the artist is to thrive.
Resistance sucks. It is often brutal, unjust, and, at times, evil. But if it is embraced, resistance can lead to beautiful things.