Many actors and other artists want their creative work to have meaning and strong impacts on others, and they are often passionate social activists. What can help them do that more fully?
Making life and work meaningful is important for many of us, not just artists, but for creators, it can be an especially intense motivation.
“I have a way to talk about whatever I want. And that’s more meaningful to me than whether people like my work or I make a lot of money.”
That is a comment by collage artist Alexis Smith.
Creativity coach and psychologist Eric Maisel notes how vitally important meaning in work and life is for creative people.
In his book The Van Gogh Blues he writes:
“The cliche is that creativity and depression go hand-in-hand. Like many cliches, this one is quite true.
“But creators are not necessarily afflicted with some biological disease or physiological disorder… They experience depression simply because they are caught up in a struggle to make life seem meaningful to them.”
From my article Making Meaning in Art: Alexis Smith, Eric Maisel.
The PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) campaign “I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur” has engaged many artists over the years to pose nude for posters, including musician Dave Navarro, actors Olivia Munn, Eva Mendes and many others.
Kim Basinger was one of the first celebrities, and has been followed by her daughter, model and animal advocate Ireland Basinger-Baldwin.
Actor Gillian Anderson writes about her own participation:
“This is my body. It’s mine to do with as I please.
“And today, I’m using it to stand up for animals and their right to exist as they please — with their skin still attached, naturally.
“My nakedness also makes a bigger statement.
“As an actor who is usually unusually modest, suddenly I find myself concerned that modern feminism has too many people confusing sexy with sexist.
“It’s easy to forget that, in the annals of activism, there is a history of women protesting naked, which has had little to do with being directly sexy and is ultimately about freedom of expression.
“Remember Lady Godiva, who rode nude to protest for peasants? And more recently, Cambridge economist Victoria Bateman appeared topless with “Brexit Leaves Britain Naked” written across her torso. I’m not that brave.
“But I am in favor of doing whatever the f*ck we want with our bodies to make a statement that is important to us.”
Gillian Anderson Embraces Naked Activism on International Women’s Day, PETA March 8, 2018. [Photo from her Facebook page.]
Mira Sorvino – a passionate activist on #MeToo and human trafficking
Mira Sorvino is an Oscar-winning actor, Harvard graduate, documentary filmmaker, UN Goodwill Ambassador, and passionate voice of the #MeToo movement.
She said her own mother inspired her to become an activist.
“What I’ve been proudest of my whole life is that my mom, a very young white woman in Washington, D.C. at the time, marched with Dr. Martin Luther King.
“That always gives me chills to know that my mom was there that day and she was hearing Dr. King and she was with all of her brothers and sisters in solidarity not caring about skin color.”
Actress Mira Sorvino on Activism, Harvey Weinstein, and Wonderful Women By Ebony Goodridge, Fashion mag. May 29, 2018.
In an interview referring to her miniseries, Human Trafficking, she said:
“In 2004, I partnered with MC International to stop violence against women and that’s where I first heard about human trafficking and I was stunned.
“I naively thought that there was no more slavery, but while legal slavery is gone in most parts of the world it just morphed and turned into an underground, more clandestine form of slavery.”
She adds, “After I finished the film and we were getting ready to promote it, I decided I needed to meet some human trafficking survivors.
“I asked this coalition in Washington who deal with human trafficking if I could meet some of their survivors and I did, and those two ladies changed my life.
“When I interviewed these two women and saw the pain in their eyes, from what had been done to them and how they’d been treated, I got galvanized and could not look away.
“Then it became this passion I guess, this fire, that I had to follow up and now it’s a big part of my life, anti-trafficking, social activism.
“I’ve lobbied foreign governments to change their policies, I’ve spoken before Congress, the Senate and at the U.N.”
Interview: Mira Sorvino on Human Rights and Making Movies. [Photo from her Facebook page.]
Making your art meaningful, with a strong impact
Psychotherapist Mihaela Ivan Holtz helps creative people in TV/Film, performing and fine arts with “their life struggles, depression, anxiety, performance anxiety, creativity, relationships and love, PTSD, and addictions – to become their own best version.”
She addresses these topics of creating an impact with your art in an article on her site.
Here is an excerpt:
You, the artist, have a big desire to make meaning through your art.
You want to deliver a message, fight, and advocate for some important issue, or spark a cultural transformation.
You want to tell stories that matter and have an impact.
You feel called to make a difference.
With your art, you speak the things that cannot be expressed through common language.
You put language to what is hard for so many others to say. You speak to a truth that society is not willing to talk about or face…
A true artist is actively part of the world that inspires their art.
A true artist creates with a purpose. They do not create in a vacuum.
It’s wonderful to be inspired by such a sense of meaning, but it isn’t necessarily easy to follow your calling.
Sometimes you may feel like what you have to say has already been said, or that your idea is too idealistic.
You may feel you’re too passionate about a cause and lose an important sense of perspective.
Or maybe you wonder, “Who will actually hear my message? Who will pay attention? Will I be heard and seen? Will my work make an impact?”
And, there you go… Suddenly, you’re trapped in your head, overanalyzing and overthinking your ideas.
Despite you being so fueled by your desire, you don’t really pursue your calling. You’re trapped somewhere between your desire to create and your thinking…
What’s really happening? Why can’t you just purse your desire to make a difference?
When you overthink and overanalyze, you disconnect from your inspiration, drive, and desire to make your art. You get trapped in a creative block.
It silences your calling.
Of course, you want to be seen and valued, but your ultimate desire is to have an impact.
You want your art to speak to the right people that believe in your cause.
You want your audience to connect with you and together to stand up for that cause.
But, your fears and doubts, when triggered, interfere with your desire and your ability to fight for what you believe in. Your desire is fading…
What if you dare to make this art and no one really cares or pays attention? What if it doesn’t have the impact you dream of? What if it doesn’t make a difference and you speak in vain?
Overthinking and overanalyzing are just defense mechanisms that keep you safe from feeling your fears and self-doubts about being unseen, undervalued, and not being able to have an impact.
But, your big desire to create art with a meaning, doesn’t go away.
It keeps coming back. It’s in your mind and in your heart. It’s your calling and you can’t ignore it! You don’t pursue it and you don’t give up either. You’re stuck.
How can you unstuck and pursue your calling?
1. First, remember overthinking is not deliberate thinking.
Overthinking has nothing to do with a critical and creative thinking to come up with an idea how to advocate for your cause.
Overthinking is a way of you avoiding feeling your fears and your doubts.
To follow your calling, you have to face your fears and doubts. It’s the only way to take on the journey of creating meaning through your art. There’s no easy way.
2. Understand why you’re avoiding feeling your fears and doubts
It could be that maybe you never had the chance to face fears and doubts. You just don’t know how or what it takes.
If you never been around people who know how to face fears and insecurities, how would you know?
If you never been encouraged and challenged to get out of your comfort zone, how would you know? If no one ever walked you through a challenge, how would you know?
You need to walk the walk in order to learn the walk.
It’s in the discomfort zone that you transform limitations into new skills and abilities.
Or, it could be that you have some emotional old trauma around fears and doubts that you need to heal first before you can face them.
Unhealed emotional pain can control you in ways you may not understand or be aware of.
Once you heal old trauma, you can face your fears and doubts.
3. Reconnect with your creative energy by validating your important artistic needs.
Connecting with your artistic needs can also help you walk through fears and doubts.
Even if it’s hard and you stumble as you face them, you make it through when you stay connected with your artistic needs.
Your artistic needs fuel your desire. They’re the sparks that keep your flame alive.
Your artistic needs need to be acknowledged. When these needs are validated, you’re able to create the art that supports the causes you truly believe in.
– You have a need to self-actualize through your art.
As a creative with a cause, you have a need to “self-actualize.”
You want to live fully and imbue your life and work with meaning and purpose.
This desire to express meaning through your art is what drew you to be an artist.
Self – fulfillment is vital for you.
Read more in her article:
What Does It Mean to Be an Artist with a Cause?
Dr. Holtz comments above:
“Unhealed emotional pain can control you in ways you may not understand or be aware of.”
The lower image is from another Creative Mind article that includes more of her perspectives on realizing your creative passions: Are you unconsciously holding back your creative career?