What are Artists Starving For?

Ever think about what exactly a starving artist is?  I have and recently I thought a little deeper about it in regard to my own life as an artist.  Usually when we hear that someone is a starving artist we think that they are poor, “starving” and scrounging around all in the name of art.  However, that could be anybody, struggling to make ends meet, whether they are an artist or not.  I thought about the definition of ‘starving’ – and when I took away the literal meaning in regard to food, I wondered what it meant when it came to artists.  Of course, this is just one point of view, mine, and for right now…as everything else changes, that could change too.  (Now that the disclaimer is out of the way…)


I see starving as a longing, a thirst for something and as an artist I realize that it is simply the need to create.  I remember, when I was a full time musician, reading about artists and that they need to have tumult in their lives in order to create since it is that place that stirs their creativity (according to this article I read). I was so upset about this and thought I might be doomed for a life of angst and unhappiness… it was as if it were an excuse to be unhappy… so that I could create.  And, I do agree with the notion that there needs to be something unsettling on some level in order to create our best creations.  However, this brings me back to the concept of starving.  One can be totally content in their lives, esthetically anyway, and internally, if they are not creating, they feel a void…. a thirst that is not quenched.  And interestingly, though the artist is rewarded by either acclaim or in monetary ways, I am not convinced that a true artist is ever satisfied with that… which is where the turmoil lies within and could be the very place from which we create.   After all, Thomas Edison, Ben Franklin and so many more were never satisfied and thank goodness they weren’t.


I am referring to certain people who are called “artists” but I do believe that we are all artists… in fact, I think that artists can be interchanged with the word “human” since we all are creating something…. whether it be numbers, teaching, healing, cures, paintings, photographs, music, etc….
In the end, I believe, the reason we ‘starve’ for creation is because it is inherent to desire to feel purposeful.


I have written many songs from break ups, falling in love, falling out of love, my views on politics, my anger and sadness and it took quite a bit of time before I started the practice of writing songs that actually had a happy sentiment.   And in all honesty, I really had to push myself to write songs from a loving place…and even now, after the hundreds of songs I’ve written I can safely say the songs written from a painful place outnumber the happy songs by far.  And… I can only surmise that the reason for this is that when I was happy, I felt a lesser need to express because I was more in the moment of living and not feeling that need as deeply to express any pain.  I am still learning how to express myself in positive ways…. it is rare, but it does happen, when lyrics will float into my head to express some pain that I am experiencing… usually, I just write about 2 lines and then I ask myself, what is it that I want to contribute to this world.  It is then that I realize that I don’t want to add to the misery or suffering… at least, not without some essence of hope and the act of overcoming pain because pain is inevitable… but I have a choice as to how to deal with it.




My husband is a successful engineer, and would hardly call himself an artist. However, he is probably more of an artist than me.  Though he enjoys his engineering work, his passion and essence is so incredibly obvious when he is painting or wood working…and what I’m about to say is not just because I am his wife, but because it it true…. his artwork is astounding.  And more than once, I have copped an angle of a photograph because his ‘eye’ is also amazing for composition.  I use him as an example…. because I think he represents us all… and confirms my belief that we are all artists.


So… if you are starving… chances are the act of creating will fulfill that void, until the next time you feel the need to create…. and the next time…. and thank goodness for that… because satisfaction is overrated and unsettling.   I guess we’re all in this together… but hardly starving… but thriving and desiring to contribute, in any way that “almost” fulfills us….and the world.


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