May 8

Why Good Art Gives Me Hope

With good art, we can soothe our pain, soften our hearts, and lift ourselves up when we’re down. It inspires us, enlightens us, shapes us, and molds us. Without good art, the world would be leeched of it’s color.

Creative self-expression is one of the ultimate indicators of our humanity.

When I’ve lost my way, I’ve found it again with good art. It’s been my compass. It’s pulled me up when I’ve been down. It’s made me believe in myself when I thought I had nothing to offer the world. When all else has failed, I’ve put pen to paper and attempted to make good art.

Good art gives us hope. It gives me hope.

Good Art is Aspirational

We fall in love with the characters in music, movies, and literature. We get to know them. We feel emotions towards them as if they are our friends. We root for our heroes and against our villains.

An example is Coach Taylor in Friday Night Lights, who becomes the embodiment of masculinity and fatherhood for men. He’s exemplary of the strength, values, and conviction that we all aspire to. He’s the kind of husband and father we all hope to be one day.

Good Art is Empathetic

On a TV show like Parenthood, we see the parallels to our own lives. We feel their pain and experience it as our own. We recognize our imperfections and the fatal flaw of our humanity. Inevitably, we’ll screw up, we’ll disappoint people and let them down. On the show, When Craig T. Nelson tells the oldest daughter, “Parents screw their kids up”, you see your own parents in a different light.

Good Art Suspends Disbelief

When you walk into the movie theater, the lights go down, the trailers play, and you are brought into a new reality. The problems of your daily life fade into the background. You begin to see elements of your own life in every story, every character, and every moment.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve found magic and hope inside of movies. The screen is always a place where anything feels possible. People overcome insurmountable odds. We gain hope that we’ll navigate the dips, dark valleys, and dead ends in the geography of creative lives.

Good Art Resonates

As an interviewer, I have one goal: to make my listener and myself feel something. Whether it’s grief, joy, pain or pleasure, if you make someone feel something, your art will resonate. It will touch someone at their core. It will, in the words of Neil Gaiman, “Leave someone a little different for your having been here”.

Good art causes us to look at our lives with a different lens. It forces us to reconsider everything we have known to be true. Good art even has the power to change our behavior, actions, and alter the course of our lives. It causes us:

  • To arrive at what Elle Luna calls “the crossroads of should and must”, and choose the latter.
  • In the words of Amber Rae, “To approach our lives with Wonder over Worry”.
  • To take the scenic route over the tried and true path.

Rather than crossing off the checkboxes of society’s life plan, good art causes us to make deliberate choices.

Good Art Takes Work

In the modern world, people are addicted to validation from strangers on the internet. They confuse attention with accomplishment. They fail to see that good art takes deep work, deliberate practice and a commitment to mastery. Good art is the path of most reward, while instant validation is the path of least resistance. The people who make good art don’t believe in the myth of the “I’ve made it” moment.

Good Art Takes Time

As I said in The Art of Being Unmistakable, art that rewards its creator long after the average person quits is admired, but rarely encouraged. We celebrate the late bloomers like Morgan Freeman and JK Rowling. But we criticize the 40 year old who doesn’t have their shit together. Time and patience are a non-negotiable if you’re serious about a career in the arts.

Good Art is Risky and Unmistakable

Nobody does anything remarkable by mimicking their heroes and role models. It’s hard to stand out in a sea of noise when you try to become the next Steve Jobs, Oprah, or Beyonce. As Seth Godin says before every project, “This might not work”. You can’t create something that’s powerful, provocative, and resonant by playing it safe.

Good Art is Human

The people I’ve interviewed on Unmistakable Creative have all accomplished remarkable things. They’ve overcome insurmountable odds, and survived unimaginable tragedies. But their accomplishments aren’t what make their stories worth telling. Their humanity does. That’s what makes them relatable.

Good Art is Never About the Money

Good art is never about the money. It’s great to make a living as an artist. But anytime you choose a creative project just for the money, you set yourself up for disappointment.

Neil Gaiman learned this the hard way early in his career. He wrote a book just for the money. The publisher went bankrupt, he lost the money, and the work. Art becomes a commodity the moment you compromise your integrity for the sake of money.

Good Art has Depth

It takes more than 140 characters to make art that has meaning, that touches our heart and shapes our humanity. Good art doesn’t capture our attention for one brief moment of interruption in our day. It stays with us long after it’s over.

  • We remember the echo of a musician’s last note.
  • A writer’s perfect sentence makes a dent in our hearts and minds.
  • We talk about our favorite movies years after we’ve watched them. We return to them over and over.
  • The sound of the human voice leads to NPR’s driveway moments.

A few days before my sister’s wedding, my parents, my sister, and brother in law all gathered in our home theater to watch Father of the Bride. We laughed, we reminisced, and my dad might have even shed a tear. Good art has that kind of depth. It brings us together in that way. It helps us paint murals instead of build walls.

Good Art Begins and Ends with an Audience of One

Many of the people who’ve been commercially successful as artists don’t need to work anymore.

  • Seth Godin still writes books after 19-best sellers.
  • Ron Howard is still making movies.
  • AR Rahman is still learning despite being a cultural icon and the most in-demand music director in Bollywood.

It’s the clearest indicator that good art is an infinite game that begins and ends with an Audience of One. The ultimate paradox of creative work is that what you create for an audience of one is much more likely to reach an audience of millions.

Good Art is a Gift to The World

Whether you’ve made it or are struggling, starving, and trying to find your way, your art is a gift. By definition gifs are something you give. Making good art is like putting messages in bottles and love notes in paper airplanes. You keep making it until it reaches its intended recipients.

The journey of an artist is unpredictable. It’s a journey in which nothing is guaranteed and anything is possible. This is a journey in which you sacrifice comfort and stability to make a gift for the world. We consume the art of cultural icons often without realizing the sacrifices they make to give it to us. What we don’t see is:

  • The hours a writer spends to give us a book we love.
  • The hundreds of days a film screw spends on a set to give us one hour of entertainment.
  • The commitment to thousands of hours of deliberate practice and rehearsal that comedians, musicians and performers make to entertain us for a few hours.

In so many ways, artists sacrifice themselves to give the rest of us hope. For that and a multitude of other reasons, good art gives me hope.

Whether it reaches an audience of millions or you spend your life making it for an audience of one, making a good art is a damn good way to spend your two most precious resources: your time and attention.


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