Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Great Artists Are Selfish

Great artists are selfish. Or so it would appear. Whether it is a visual artist, writer,musician, composer, singer, actor or movie star, one theme seems to pop up time and again. That theme is sacrifice. The artist is prepared to sacrifice anything or anyone for the sake of their art.

I’m not a huge fan of historical novels but I do like to read about artists, so with that in mind I picked up Claude and Camille, a book about the famous artist Claude Monet. You can find my thoughts about this book and others on Good Reads. What struck me most in reading this though was the selfishness of the artist. Everything else including those he loved was sacrificed to his art. This quote from J.K. Rowling about choices perhaps sums it up. ‘It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.'

If it came to a choice between pursing your art or maintaining relationships which would you choose? I have to say that if it came to a choice between writing which I love doing or my husband and family, there would be no contest. Husband and family would win out. Fortunately I don't have to make that choice as I have a husband and family who support and encourage my writing.

It seems to me that in many cases the art, whatever it may be, takes precedence over relationships and I think that is sad. Is that what God intended for us as writers? I don't think so. Sure, we need to carve out time to fulfil our calling to write and writing takes a lot of hard work. And it's not just the writing. These days to get your work out there and be known takes a lot of time in promotion and marketing. So should we invest all our energies into protecting our writing at all costs and just expect family and others around us will understand and make allowances because we are writers and our art must come first? What do you think?

That, to me, seems to contradict the way our Lord would have us live. As Albert Einstein said, 'Only a life lived for others is worthwhile.'

Yes, we are to do our best in the work He has called us to do but I doubt that means a sacrificing relationships to do it. At the end of people's lives it is often not that they wish had earned more money or written more books but that they had devoted more time to maintaining relationships. I may never be great in the world's eyes and that's okay, so long as at the end I hear God say, 'well done good and faithful servant' and know that I have cared for those God surrounded me with as well as doing the work He called me to.

Dale's latest novel is Streets on a Map published by Ark House Press. She has also had published a book of poetry, several children's novels, and has written a series of bible studies and Sunday school material. Her website is or you can visit her personal blog


  1. Do you ever notice that pop psychology and Christianity are often at odds? Selfishness is one example. Lots of self-help books advocate a degree of selfishness, especially for care-givers. The theory is that without taking care of ourselves, we'll burn out and be no use to others either. Yet the Bible teaches about sacrifice. I guess life is one big balancing act.

  2. True Alice, looking after self seems to be the catch cry of our times. I agree it's hard sometimes to strike the right balance in life.

  3. Maybe this is an American problem. I have gotten comments back from my American critique group that my talented South African figure skater character needs to go for her dreams and stop being held back by her family. I was shocked, until my husband pointed out how un-African that would be, and I realized they were reading from an American-individualist POV.

    1. I really needed to read something like this, Dale. I've been worried about facing 2012 as I want to keep up those writing related activities you mentioned, yet at the same time I have kids facing crucial study years, especially my oldest son doing Year 12 from home through Open Access College. I know which needs to take priority.
      About self care, I do think we can burn ourselves out and appreciate the parts in the gospels in which Jesus retired by himself for long periods of refreshment :)

  4. Thanks LeAnne for your comments, though I don't think it's a peculiarly American problem. Us Aussies face it here too. It's the way of society. It's the POV the media constantly presents. I know plenty of others who would agree and without thinking twice put their writing time above family, but it's not me, though I have spent a lot of today closeted in my study.But then a lot of yesterday was a together day with my husband so I guess it evens out.

  5. Glad to hear it was helpful, Paula. Oh, I remember back to those year 12 days with kids though I wasn't homeschooling. I feel we have our families for such a short time. But yes,I agree, we certainly need that draw aside time too to be refreshed enough to cope with all the demands on time.

  6. Hi Dale, I'm with you, when it comes right down to it much as I love writing and producing Footprints, my relationships with my husband and children come first.

    PS you're right - this is very much like what I wrote in the FOCUS ezine!

  7. Yes, bizarre isn't it? I read yours just after this was posted.Great minds think alike?

  8. Why STEREOTYPE creative people as selfish? This is judging a group as a whole. I've met extremely selfish people who do nothing but socialize. Extroverts can be very selfish.