The Artist’s Struggle

In an essay about Kafka, David Foster Wallace wrote the following words, “the horrific struggle to establish a human self results in a self whose humanity is inseparable from that horrific struggle. […] our endless and impossible journey toward home is in fact our home.”

Now, he was talking about Kafka’s works, but I think that phrase pretty much sums up what art is all about.

As a writer, as an artist, I’m interested in people. It’s not only about empathy, but also about understanding how things work. That’s something you can’t really learn. Or read about in a book. You either have it or you don’t.

Now, about this phrase. The journey, not the destination.

Yes, I believe it’s true, and I believe that the main theme in art could be the question, “who am I becoming?” We’re always in the process of becoming someone, and there’s always something deeply embedded in our soul that remembers us where we came from.

It’s all about the struggle: to establish a human self, to figure out who you are, to figure out who you want to be. To find your place in this world.

There are no trivial pursuits in life. Or art for that matter. They may seems trivial to us, at one point or another, but they’re not.

You know, a lot of people think all these popular novels about vampires are just commercial fiction. Light literature, some of you might call them. But I guess that to a great deal of those who actually wrote them, it’s about some important aspect of their personalities: someone wanting to be immortal, and strong, and fast, and beautiful. That’s a dream. Impossible? Maybe. But a dream nonetheless.

I believe we all write a great deal about ourselves. About our own struggles, about the parts that are missing, or the parts that we think are missing. About what we want or what we need, all that stuff.

In the end, what we write about tells others a great deal about who we are. Maybe more than we could ever be able to tell them directly.

Perhaps it’s all about the struggle. That impossible journey towards a home we dream about, and we can picture it in our heads so clearly, even though we’ve never seen it. Consciously, we don’t know how it looks like. In the day to day world of petty frustrations and stupid arguments, and countless bills and troubles, we don’t have time to see these sorts of things. We don’t have time to figure out who we want to be.

But when we make art, that’s when we can see the dark and twisted road that is our home. Never-ending  and cruel, but we’re so certain that we’re headed in the right direction that we can’t help ourselves but smile.

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12 thoughts on “The Artist’s Struggle

  1. “the main theme in art could be the question, “who am I becoming?” We’re always in the process of becoming someone, and there’s always something deeply embedded in your souls that remembers us where we came from.” – connected with you right there! 🙂

  2. Fantastic post, I really enjoy the way you write.
    Not exactly relevant, it’s just because the word ‘home’ was used a few times, but Freud (I think) once joked that “love is a longing for home”, alluding to the oceanic bliss of being in the womb – remembering this made me laugh a little bit as I read your post.

  3. Good stuff…I’ve been contemplating “struggle” a lot the last month or so. The person we are now, is largely shaped by our own experiences, are own struggle so to say. Where we end up will also be shaped by similar forces. You are right that it is hard to see ourselves now. We look to the past for guidance and the future for hope, but the now is so easily ignored, but today is more important than yesterday or tomorrow. I’m sure you’ve heard D.F. Wallace’s commencement speech This is Water. Your writing made me think of part in the introduction of his speech, “…the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about. Stated as an English sentence, of course, this is just a banal platitude, but the fact is that in the day to day trenches of adult existence, banal platitudes can have a life or death importance…”. I love Wallace and I loved this post thanks for sharing and giving me time to reflect on, today.
    -D

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