Monday, October 26, 2009

The Power of Language

I'm currently reading a book called The Soul of Money, by Lynne Twist. I came across an especially personal and captivating section the other night. In the book the author discusses, among other things, the language surrounding money and economic status.

She says the words "poor and poverty describe economic circumstances and environments, but all too often these words are used in ways that discount the humanity and potential of individuals who have little money."

She writes that the term "starving artist... has us accept that creativity is undervalued in our society. It suggests that those of us who rely on creative gifts to make a living can expect to be poorly paid, and the rest of us are entitled to exploit them or short change them in money terms, and undervalue them in human terms."

I completed my undergraduate degree in fine arts and though I can't claim to make a living using my creative talents and therefore count myself more as a creative person that an artist by title I have always despised the term "starving artist." I was never able to articulate what about it bothered me so, so when I came across this entry in Lynne Twist's book I had an "Aha!" moment.

It isn't simply an irritating cliché, it is the implication of the words that creativity and creative people are severely lacking in worth. To borrow from Ms. Twist's words - it serves to undervalue and even undermine the humanity of the artist and creative thinker.

Now I know my family and friends well (and love them all dearly) and over the years I am sad to say I have heard this term used on many occasion. I am certain they never meant to imply that I am a lesser human being because of my creative talents and path in life; however, as socially acceptable as this term may be, it has no positive interpretation. There is no innocuous definition to the term "starving artist."

On that note, I chose to share Lynne Twist's words with you in the hopes that maybe one or two of you may share my "Aha!" moment. You may even stop and consider - and appreciate - all the artists and creative people in your life, who are likely anything but starving. If they are blessed with creativity then they are rich indeed!

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