Part II: My Life as a Shadow Artist
Too intimidated to become artists themselves, very often too low in self-worth to even recognize that they have an artistic dream, these people become "shadow artists" instead. Artists themselves but ignorant of their true identity, shadow artists are to be found shadowing "declared artists." Unable to recognize that they themselves may possess the creativity they so admire, they often date or marry people who actively pursue the art career they themselves secretly long for.
--Julia Cameron, "The Artist's Way"
I didn't like my first reading of this passage. It disturbed and even angered me. It came too close and I wasn't ready to accept its wise insight. It doesn't rest easily with me even today, many years later. I was a lawyer in a New York entertainment law firm at the time, representing Julia in intellectual property and new media matters. In fact, this passage hit straight to the heart because it was it was an "unwelcome truth" for me. As a parent trying to do the right thing, willingly and with enthusiasm --and without the slightest regret to this day--I had set aside a number of the things that were closest to my "expressive self" and focused on that part of my life as parenting gave me great joy.
That role and the press of my professional work as an attorney, meant that, for several decades, I only dabbled in photography, guitar, and music--but that's about as close as I came to being a "declared artist" during this period of my life. I was an avid reader and could easily immerse myself in the lyrical writings of gifted authors such as a personal favorite, Pat Conroy, marveling at his ability to capture the human soul and condition with turns of phrases. I saw movies in theatres by the dozens every year and always wanted to be able to make them in some way. Mostly, I joined arts organizations and represented creative people of all sorts in a variety of ways, including as champion for protecting their intellectual property rights around the world, a ten-year chapter in my adult life.
It took me another twenty years from the time that Julia declared me to be a "bleepin'" artist to make the "declared artist" leap. In doing so, I learned that "it's never too late to be who you might have been" -- George Eliot.
© 2011 by William Nix. All rights reserved.