Are You An Attention-Seeking Artist?

Festival Crowd

Are you an attention-seeking artist? I know it sounds like a silly question because what artist doesn’t seek some form of attention with their art? Artists create not only for the love of creating, but for their work to be seen and appreciated. What filmmaker doesn’t want their film being seen by the masses? Does a painter paint in order to stick their canvas in the closet? Why would a composer write a score to be heard by no one? Artists are attention-seekers not unlike a salesman wanting to get the sale, a teacher inspiring their students, or a business owner wanting to hit it out of the park by making new widget. Yet, for the artist, there are some nuances regarding art and attention-seeking.

In a recent Grove online class called Pursuing Your Artistic Destiny, I interviewed my friend and co-worker, Roy Cochran. We had a great conversation about how artists and creatives can pursue their God-given creative calling. One of the points we covered was the importance of artists excelling in their craft. Roy asked the question, “Is your insatiable yearning to learn or for attention?” Jeff, one of our listeners, responded with a question of his own…

Jeff asked, “Roy said, ‘Is your insatiable yearning to learn or for attention?’ My answer would be both. Is there a correct answer to this?”

Roy and I both responded to Jeff’s important question because it’s a question every artist must wrestle with, “What is the core motivation I have for seeking attention?”

Here’s our take… since Roy and I only hit on a few facets of this important topic, I’d love your feedback when you’re finished reading.

My response…

Our hunger to learn our craft will make us more proficient, thus helping us excel in our craft to bring glory to God. If our desire is to just get “attention” (I.e fame, fortune, notoriety) or to satisfy some unmet need for love and acceptance, then our desire for attention is misdirected.

Now, that said, an artist does want to bring his or her gifts/art to the world because that is what we are made to do. Getting attention for a well-honed craft is a good and holy desire because it can reflect an intimacy with our Creator. So yes, I too, want to learn and get attention with what I “do” with my craft, but I want it to flow out of a rich heart cultivated in God’s love so what I produce is authentic and the “fruit” of being in right relationship with him.

Getting attention for attention sake is a dead end… getting attention for God’s sake will reveal a heart that holds all these things with a loose grip. The goal is creativity and communion with God, but there’s always an inherent tension between the flesh and the spirit.

Roy’s response…

I’m not sure there is a correct or incorrect answer to this question. I believe we can discover some things about ourselves through these answers. As far as the desire for attention goes, it can come from a healthy place or an unhealthy place. As artists we desire to COMMUNICATE through our media and that can be viewed as wanting attention when in fact it’s more of wanting to communicate to a crowd. But more often than not, after investing some time with some artists I might discover a wound or an area that was was never developed in a healthy way. More to the point, their heart, their spirit, their uniqueness may not have been nurtured or developed in their developmental stages. This produces different responses and safeguards in each of us. The way we view ourselves, the conclusions we come to about ourselves are made when we are very young. As a result, these conclusions many times are understandable, but inaccurate, because they are made by young kids.

As an example, I know someone who’s mother was extremely critical when they were a child. Their conclusion they made about themselves was this: “I must not be lovable.” Their mother never said that. That was all they could come up with as a reason from their mother being so overly critical. They MUST NOT BE LOVABLE. That’s why mom is so mean. That conclusion colored every comment, every conversation, every relationship they had as an adult. When artists believe there is “something wrong with them” because they are different, many of them, in an attempt to feel loved or valued or appreciated NEED attention. The question of WHY is the real issue.

I play in front of hundreds and at times thousands of people every week. My favorite place on the planet to worship is on stage with friends who are amazing at their gift. Some might view that as needing attention from the stage. If you knew me, you would discover that I learned about worship, was mentored and had my eyes opened to worship while on stage. That is my most comfortable environment for worship and communication to God with His people. I oddly enough, find it awkward in the congregation. It’s not my native environment for worship and communication in that way.

If you are driven for attention, I would pay attention to what is driving that desire. Again, the desire to communicate and receive a response can be a healthy desire for an artist. Discovering if a lie you’ve been told or one that was a result of a young conclusion about yourself may be a great step in the freedom that God wants you to enjoy as His son. An identity based on what HE THINKS about you.

Kind of a big topic. I hope this brings some clarity to your question.

Your response…

You’ve heard from Roy and I… now it’s your turn. How would you respond to Jeff’s question?

I’d love your thoughts and comments.

Click here to listen to the entire Pursuing Your Artistic Destiny online class presented by The Grove Center for the Arts & Media. We pack a lot of practical information in this hour-long class.

You’ve just finished reading Are You An Attention-Seeking Artist? Click here to comment now.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, snarky or off-topic.

  • techne

    agreed. i would say that i want the work to get attention, not [necessarily] myself.

    • Joey O’Connor

      Great clarity. Thanks for your response Edward. Loving ‘The Gift’!

      • techen

        I thin the first half is stellar — second half…meh.
        in any case, when can we expect to hear your thoughts?

        • Joey O’Connor

          Thanks for your note…as you can see, my blog writing has been very light the past couple months as all my writing time and energy has been absorbed in writing marketing materials and storybooks for two film projects…how about 2014?!

          Wishing you a blessed Christmas!

  • Waitsel Smith

    I’ve heard a lot about the desirability of anonymity as a Christian. Yet, I’m a writer and an artist. How can I desire to be anonymous and also successful at my calling? I don’t think it’s possible. What is possible is humility – that I can do. That is about attitude, and I have some control over that. I can have the right attitude about my successes, as well as my failures. Life is not about circumstances, it is about my attitude toward my circumstances and toward God. And that can be summed up in one work – thankfulness. As long as I’m thankful, God will keep opening the doors. Once I stop being thankful, the doors will start shutting. God wants us to be successful, but He wants it His way, not ours. That, I think, is the crux of the matter.

    • Joey O’Connor

      Thanks Waitsel…your words ring so true. We can choose humility and our attitude regarding our circumstances. I do agree that thankfulness does lead to greater humility and appreciation. All is gift…