I’ve come across the idea time and time again. It’s a very well documented and widely expressed phenomenon. Yet, while artists and non-artists may be aware of the adverse relationship between external pressure and creativity, even accept it as common and be able to cite examples, they may not be aware of all the forms this “external pressure” may take. I’m making it a point to compile instances of this idea in writing and in conversation to increase awareness and, consequently, advocate for disregarding external pressure in artistic practice.
I’ve wrestled with it myself as in, to what degree am I modifying or limiting my artistic expression in response to perceived social pressures, e.g. audience taste?
Personally, I feel like I’m maturing as an artist and feeling less the need to succumb or adapt to external pressure. Perhaps, the two go hand in hand. Of course, there are times for artistic compromise in collaborations, but that’s a whole other story.
The main point here is that artists have to deal with external pressure and become comfortable with their response to it.
The idea that external pressure inhibits creativity has become more interesting to me recently as I’ve become more and more aware of the dynamics of “authenticity” in the music world. I think responding to external criteria of authenticity can have detrimental effects on artistic expression. So, it is a personal mission to make people aware of the potential danger of this pressure and to encourage artists to be true (authentic) only to their artistic vision.
Here’s an instance of a response to an external pressure that I just came across. Musician Michael League – bassist, composer, leader of Snarky Puppy, etc. – is responding to the question: “Is Snarky Puppy passing the torch of jazz to the younger generation?”
Micheal’s response: I try not to think about things in that kind of context. When you put that kind of pressure on yourself, I think it can inhibit art.
Michael is an artist. A “true” artist, in my opinion, because his primary concern is based in his personal aesthetics. As he says, “Does this chord sound nice to me? Does this groove sound good? Do I like this song?”
I want to encourage artists to be in this head space. It’s the only “authentic” head space to be in, as it’s the only one that facilitates artistic expression. And it’s a head space without the ache (wah wah).
You can read the full interview with Michael League here (it’s a shorty but goody):