Need Or Love: The Driving Force In Art

The journey for the artist is by no means an easy one. In the majority of cases time, energy, tenacity, hard work, and talent are not necessarily a recipe for success. All too often achieving even a modicum of success is elusive, and yet many artists persist in spite of the overwhelming odds.

So what is it in the artist’s nature that allows them to persevere, knowing they will have to endure a seemingly endless stream of criticism and rejection? How do they maintain a positive outlook in a world inundated with nay sayers, cynics, abusive personalities, and the like? Clearly there is no simplistic explanation as we are dealing with the human condition.

When I have asked people over the years why they want to act, the most common response I get is, “Because I love it.” That is certainly a legitimate reason but I don’t believe it is the driving force that keeps the artist going? I have known more than a few actors that have fallen in and out of love with acting. Some had a brief fling, while others lingered until rejection and other forces dulled their enthusiasm. And then there were those that tried to walk away but were drawn back by some inexplicable magnetic force. One actor I spoke with told me that after he “quit” he got a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach every time he passed a theatre. His love for acting was nothing compared to the need that perpetually summoned him.

In some cases people are drawn to the arts for the “promise of money, fame, sex, adulation, approval, et al, but after a few bouts with rejection, disappointment, and failure they go sprinting for the hills.

For me there is one key element that provides the artist with the flame that enables them to endure, and overcome the many hurdles and obstacles they will face, and that is “need”. Need trumps love, riches, fame, sex, approval and the rest. It is to the soul what food and water is to the body. The need to express, create, connect, touch, explore, and discover is immense.

David Mamet was once asked if he liked to write. He replied that it wasn’t a matter of liking it. Writing was something he had to do. He had no choice. No other options. Writing was and remains, his calling.

It is impossible to describe that feeling, to put into words what it means to need something in that particular way. I began acting and segued into teaching over 25 years ago. I have lived through some very lean times and have done a myriad of jobs in an effort make my dreams a reality. There is no question that I love and have a passion for what I do, but it is not the driving force that keeps me plugging away.

We are bound to fall in and out of love on more than one occasion in our lifetime. But the need to create cannot be extinguished. It does not fade away. It burns inside of the artist like the eternal flame. It is not a question of liking or loving. They do it, because they have to.