It Doesn’t Matter What You Do for a Living: Your Life Is Supposed to Be Art

Excerpted from Fat, Broke & Lonely No More: Your Personal Solution to
Overeating, Overspending, and Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places
© Victoria Moran -- HarperOne, 2007

Life is tough for artists, especially in the US where we celebrate stars and don’t seem to care much if the equally talented but undiscovered juggle three jobs and have to clean their voice teacher’s apartment in exchange for lessons. When I was looking for a part-time personal assistant I put an ad on craigslist and got over 200 responses in a weekend. The majority of applicants were artists--painters, filmmakers, actors, dancers, writers, musicians. They had BFAs and MFAs. Some had earned honors at Barnard and Brown and NYU. Their plays had been produced and their photographs hung in galleries, and still they were looking for a way to earn a little money with a “B” job (i.e., it’s not art but it’s okay) or a “C” job (i.e., it’s close to intolerable but the rent is due).

To someone looking in from the outside, clinging to one’s art despite the hardships it can cause doesn’t look all that different from staying in an impossible relationship and hoping something will change when nothing ever has. But it’s not the same. Art is energizing down to the very roots of your being. It’s puts you on intimate terms with beauty when there’s ugliness all around. During the creative process, you get face time with your Higher Self even if you didn’t meditate this morning (although meditation fuels creativity the way complex carbs fuel a long-distance run). Artists tend to stay with their art through good times and bad because in their sculpting or singing or whatever they do, they are more alive than ever.
My mom used to make a coconut-and-booze confection she called “Better than Sex Cake.” Art is like that: better than sex or chocolate or winning the lottery because it’s sustaining, self-contained, and never makes you feel fat or leave you wondering if he’ll call.

It is a fact that lots of artists use alcohol, drugs, sex, food, and money in destructive ways, but that’s because highly creative people are often highly sensitive, too. They’re not fond of the routines of ordinary life. And many artists, like many non-artists, haven’t made the connection between art and life. The light bulb hasn’t gone on in their heads that the lifeblood of creativity--and the secret to wresting every soupçon of satisfaction out of life--is making a work of art out of each and every day.

True creative geniuses are those who understand that a stage or a paintbrush is not required for making the highest art of all. Their medium is the twenty-four-hour period and their lives are their masterpieces. They’re the ones who use the company dishes when there’s no company. They put plaid with stripes or green with lavender in a way that works. They buy fresh flowers, even if paying for them means they’ll have to hand-wash the blouse they’d otherwise get dry-cleaned. “Real artists know they can slice themselves everywhich way,” says Necia Gamby, a mentor of mine and an elder (i.e., my age) visionary in the Hip-hop community. “The most important thing to an artist is having a way to express, no matter which channel of expression you’re looking at.”

Similarly, you’ll feel filled (and fulfilled) when your life overall is a work of art. This is not about perfectionism--exhibiting a level of discipline unheard of outside boot camp, maintaining a living room that looks as if nobody lives there, and making sure you never kick back, take time off, get dirty, make mistakes, or hang up your halo. Life-as-art is above all else interesting. It’s textured, intriguing, unique, and worth taking a look at. As with a film or a song, your life-art is not going to be appreciated by everyone. Some people (certain relatives probably, and envious peers) will heartily disapprove. That’s the risk every artist takes. When a painter or a poet tones down his work simply to gain a wider audience, we say he’s sold out. You and I sell out, too, when we color our lives neatly inside the lines.

Live creatively if you don’t already, and if you do, do it some more. See your day as a canvas to paint or a lump of clay to mold into something beautiful and useful. To get started, ask yourself artsy questions:

-What do you use to wash your face? Is it just some product you picked up somewhere or did you think before you bought it about how it feels and smells and works with your complexion? Was it tested on animals? Are the ingredients as safe and natural as those you look for in your food?

-What about your toothpaste? Is it the same old mint stuff your mother bought for you or have you discovered imported, specialty, artistic toothpastes?

-When you open your closet to choose your clothes for the day, do you see a collection of favorites hung on padded hangers or a crowded clump of “nothing to wear”?

-For breakfast, do you grab whatever’s easy or give some thought to making a nutritious blender drink or cooking oatmeal in an actual pot?

-Do you always take the same route to work, or do you spice it up sometimes and go through a part of town that’s especially beautiful, or at least different?

Paying attention to questions like these can make art of your day before 9 a.m. Think of what you can do with sixteen waking hours. It is almost impossible to feel the empty yearning that leads to mindless eating or senseless spending when you’re consciously involved in creating something. You are, you know, creating something all the time: your legacy.

Expect things to get far more interesting when you start treating every day, even Mondays, as venues for creative expression. Very little can be seen as ordinary when every choice, from the shoes you wear to the sandwich you order, is an opportunity to create a life that is, in one tiny way after another, ever more fascinating.

Take an action: Be creative today--with the clothes you choose, the way you set the table, how you wrap a package. No aspect of life is too insignificant to count as art.

Author's Bio: 

Victoria Moran is the author of ten books, an international speaker on wellness and personal growth, and a certified life coach specializing in transformation and rejuvenation. Victoria’s latest book is Fat, Broke & Lonely No More: Your Personal Solution to Overeating, Overspending, and Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places. Visit her website at www.VictoriaMoran.com