I’ve seen it. I grew up with it all around me in Los Angeles. You could call it a side effect of hustling, of drive, of perseverance. We all know it. We’re meant to live it—prideful to accept it. It excuses the failure, the pocket change exchange, the short on rent and sleep. Chase the bitterness with alcohol. Laugh at the narcissism with a side of self-doubt and nothing for dinner.
But take another look: starving artist. Not aspiring but starving. Not trying. Not climbing. Not up. I’ve seen it romanticized, idolized, held onto like a badge of pride. Scars. Tattoos. Holier than thous. You’re tough. You’ve earned it. Hell, you don’t even want success, anyway. You’re right by being wrong. You’ve beaten the system, right?
Who fed that bullshit to you? You were slung an insult and you took it like a truth. Experience has value, and so does drive. Bloody your knuckles and bloodshot your eyes until the sun comes up, and if it doesn’t work, do it again. But there’s still a lie. There’s still something not quite right.
As much as society loves art, it shits on the artist. “Get a real job.” “You contribute no value, but I’ll pay $15 to see your movie and claim I can do better.” And the best: “Can you do it for free?” and the anger that ensues when you won’t.
Starving artist. That’s what they tell you. That’s what they want you to be. Why? Because if you think it’s the dream to starve as an artist, that it’s just “part of the struggle”, then they have you. They own you, and they don’t have to feed you. They can keep you down, because you think you gain meaning from squalor. That’s the dark dream, the life you have to live, or success can’t be real.
You can have millions but be an addict. You can have billions and want to die. Why? Because you were taught to be starving. You were taught that you don’t deserve to have more, that you have to suffer and starve for it. You were never meant to break out of the 9-5 ‘til you die life. You were taught to fail, even when you have success. Artists are supposed to starve, right? You’re not the breadwinner, right?
Fuck. That. You are the light in the dark. You are the music in the silence. You are the words no one else could say. You are the mirror. You are fucking magic, creating something out of nothing. You are terrifying, because you can change everything. Don’t sell yourself short, because the rest of the world would love to, and they'd be happy to see you starve. They'd be right all along.
Don’t buy the toxic fantasy they sold you. It wasn’t made by an artist.
Starving artist. Bullshit.