The Artistic Personality: Is it really okay to treat other people like crap?
This post is a little different from typical “writing advice," but the question above has plagued me for years—possibly because I think how some artists answer it is complete hogwash. Back in college, artistic people (mainly writers) were the crux of my daily world. Some of them were awesome (I’m married to one of them), but I remember meeting more than my share of the stereotypes.
You know . . . the tall, good-looking, brooding poet/dude who didn’t shower often enough and who let his girlfriend support him and cook his meals, and he barely noticed her, and when I pointed this out, he answered, “I’m a poet. I have an artist’s nature.”
“And that gives you the right to treat your girlfriend like crap?”
It was really none of my business, and I decided that at some point she’d probably realize he was never going to notice her efforts or give her any help, and she’d get herself out.
But I’ve seen this kind of thing a lot. Too much.
There was the middle-aged single mom who suddenly decided that if she was ever going to “be” a writer, she had to give it her all, and so she told her young children that from that point on, cooking meals and doing the laundry was all their responsibility because she had to focus on her writing.
I have an artistic personality, and I spend time with a lot of people who possess artistic personalities, and I don’t think it gives any of us the right to take advantage of the other people in our lives.
However . . . on the other end of this, I also think it’s critical that we make lives and homes and friends with those who at least have some understanding of the artistic personality. I have been known to become obsessed with a book project . . . to the point that I’ve stopped showering and often forgotten to eat while I'm working. Poor JC. I’m sort of a shotgun writer where I burn brightly for about a month, get the hard part of the project done, and then I go back to normal.
He’s more of a “slow fuse” artistic type whose head is always somewhere else—but he makes a living with his writing, and he does the dinner dishes, and he’s really nice to me on the rare occasion when I feel blue.
I have one writer friend with a full time job who has to get up at 5:00 am to get his writing quota done. As a result, he needs to go to bed at 9:30 at night, and his wife is a night owl, but she’s very supportive and understanding of the fact that well . . . he has to go to bed early or he’d never get any writing done--and the writing is important to him. She “gets” him.
Anyway, I guess my point is that we need to find a balance between our whacky artistic natures and still being decent, loving partners, parents, and friends to other people.