By Steven Pressfield
Published: May 22, 2013
The artist’s mindset has always been that of the free agent. The painter, writer or filmmaker by definition can only follow her own vision. She has to know (or teach herself) how to be self-defining, self-motivating, self-reinforcing, self-validating.
And yet artists have always run in schools. Paris in the 20s, Rome in the late 50s and early 60s, New York any time. I wish I had been part of a school. I once went to Paris and did nothing but ride the metro to the places Hemingway had mentioned in his short stories and in A Moveable Feast. I would’ve loved to have hung out with kindred spirits anywhere. It would’ve made me feel less alone.
Here’s what I found out about Hemingway by the way. In the short stories like “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place,” you felt like he was in some workingman’s café writing fiction with a half-inch stub of a pencil because he couldn’t afford even a crayon. Turns out the Closerie des Lilas and many of the other watering holes he mentioned are high-toned, high-cotton joints. Zinc bars, walnut-paneled walls. I was kinda depressed to discover this. I thought, “Hem was a swell!” I was disappointed.
Bottom line: I never could find a school. I never managed to hang out with anybody. Wherever the school was, I always got there twenty years after it had packed up and split.
But we need schools. We need the tribe. It’s too lonely being a one-man band all the time. Maybe the web is our school today. Maybe it’s Facebook, I don’t know. I’m missing that school too.
But to get a little more serious, the point of this post is that we need both sides of the dime. Each of us as individual writers, artists and entrepreneurs needs to be able to flip the switch and become the Incredible Hulk of self-discipline and self-sustenance. But we gotta be human beings too. The free agent mindset is too hard to sustain. In my own life I’ve probably arced way too far into that end of the pendulum swing. It’s not healthy. It’s not good for you.