Tuesday, April 24, 2018


A good friend who is a thoughtful intelligent person let me know she considers all writers, actors, and artists to be too self-involved. She is not a writer or an artist but she is a good reader and as such she consumes a lot of our output.

Obviously, this took me aback. Then I let it sink and got to thinking.

I now see she has a point even as I insist on shying away from broad stroke generalizations. Modern artists in all media focus on personal and distinctive ways of seeing and revealing reality. The creatives of the modern age are not bound by communal standards and rigid rules. It is about individual insight aka “Me.”

This stands in clear contrast to religious art pre-renaissance, where an artist’s abilities were in the service of communal thought and artists were thus anonymous.

So once I licked the wound of what I took as a piercing indictment, I realized my friend had a valid point.

But here’s the counter point: yes, artistic creativity is now about the individual, and we like it that way. The ethos of our country and the modern west is the individual.

There’s a spiritual and emotional cost to the modern way. An honest look at artists will show this undeniable truth. The obsessiveness with self comes at the expense of the serenity that yielding to the communal can confer.

It’s a price we pay, and have insisted on paying, since the European Renaissance and later the so-called European Enlightenment. As mechanization in industry standardized everything we consume, artists play a counterpoint with ever-increasing obsession with differences. 

It has its extreme excesses as well as points of luminosity. It is where we’ve gone; always searching for why are we here.

Thank you for indulging my highfalutin musings this day.


  1. Good post. I was also thinking of those medieval artists who deliberately put a flaw in their work because only God is perfect.

    Your friend makes a good point but so often when I read something that really resonates, I am so grateful because of the human connection. Another human being has articulated what I couldn't, but wanted to. So I thank you for your writing.

    I think many of us who want to write for the glory of God still cannot separate the desire for our own glory. It's something I struggle with. The ego is large.

  2. Thought-provoking. Thank you. Made me ponder how God views the shift.

    1. "Made me ponder how God views the shift."

      Only G-d knows...

  3. Hmm, many of my books revolve around the actions of one affecting many. Some are tough to write because the MC is nothing like me. I think I like to hide myself in my work. My traits usually come out more in secondary characters than my MC. But the focus on one (or two) MCs does make the story about the individual more than the whole, so I suppose your friend is correct.

  4. I think many writers, artists, and actors could be seen as humbly giving a gift to others, along with a need to entertain and share. Whereas, self-involvement comes in more with this overwhelming need for marketing: look at me, look at me, buy my book instead of theirs, etc.

    1. I think my friend was thinking about the content of modern books, specifically novels (for adults) and of interviews with writers and actors that show a great degree of self preoccupation. But my point was that the modern approach to art emphasises individuality, and only self-reflective (often to excess) would give this self exploration the relentless effort and the bulk of their lifetime. All this, often with few worldly rewards.