what is an artist?

who is an artist? that was a question posed yesterday.

here’s my working definition for today:

an artist is someone who repeatedly and over extended periods of time expresses her or his experience, knowledge, talent, skill or other internal processes to design unique objects, processes or points of view. most artists are internally driven to operate in this manner and are uncomfortable in situations that do not allow for self-expression.

what do you think of this definition, gentle reader? what would you add, change, take away, improve?

i think the clincher here are the words “repeatedly and over extended periods of time” in combination with the second sentence. with robert epstein, another researcher on the psychology of creativity, i believe that we are all innately creative. however, there appears to be a difference in the desire, need and interest to express and nurture this creativity.

back in the eighties, i worked as a legal secretary. for a few years, i worked for ray schachter, a great boss, with whom i got along very well. once in a while i would make really, really stupid mistakes. these mistakes often wouldn’t make sense given my skills, so a few times we sat down, wracking our brains where these mistakes came from and, of course, how to avoid them.

it was only years later that i realized what had been going on: there was very little room for creativity in this job – so these mistakes were my way of expressing myself. the artist in me just couldn’t handle the pressure and used these mistakes as an escape valve. i guess i’m lucky – other people self-destruct in more disastrous ways when they don’t have room for self-expression.

i also noticed that my interest and ability to pay attention to details was very inconsistent (a killer in the legal field, as you can imagine!) and am now wondering whether that could also be part of czikszentmihalyi’s list of paradoxes. i find that i zoom in and out of paying attention to details, hopping from tiny particularities to great generalities, at a speed that some find a little fast.

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver

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