Tearing Down the Myth of the Lone Artist

by: Shannon McNay

When I was a young adult, I was obsessed with the idea of becoming a prodigy. I felt that to reach success meant to become exceptional at a young age and to do so without anyone’s help. There was absolutely nothing I wanted more than blazing success.

As the years went on, I struggled to find myself and my voice, mostly because I was constantly held back by fear. Always choosing the safest route I could find, my career and mental growth were stunted for almost all of my 20s. A prodigy I was not.

Then I met my now-husband. From the beginning of our relationship, he pushed me far beyond my creative comfort zone. Little by little, he broke down the wall of fear I’d been hiding behind my whole life. I heartily resisted his efforts, convinced he was just trying to change me. But then things started to click.

He saw in me someone he once was – and he didn’t want me to hold myself back the same way he once did. Thanks to my husband, my point of view on just about everything changed. I realized my stubbornness was a product of fear, not of knowing what was best. I started to seek out work that scared me. In fact, I developed a life of chasing down the things that scare me instead of the other way around.

No journey of growth is perfect though, and for years I took as many steps backward as I took forward. I grew and then cowered, pushed myself then hesitated. The battle to remain fearless was and is a daily one. But luckily, I found yet another kindred spirit to help me through:

Claire and I met at the job that would eventually catapult my career. Together we faced many highs and lows and formed a bond that could only come out of intensely trying times. We laughed and cried together. We understood each other. We pushed each other. We uplifted each other. Between my husband and Claire, I had a sudden realization:

People need each other.

By “people” I mean all people, but especially artists, entrepreneurs, creatives, growth seekers. For years, society has perpetuated the myth that the great must find greatness on their own. That the artist must slave away in the den of creativity in their mind. I bought into this theory for almost my entire life.

But it’s utter bullshit.

Creatives: you need to collaborate with other creatives. Entrepreneurs: you need to connect with other entrepreneurs. Anyone seeking growth in any way: you need a community who can build you up when you’re sliding down and who can celebrate with you when you reach milestones.

I’m not a prodigy and I didn’t make it to where I am on my own. None of those visions I had of standing on a mountain top alone came true…

…and I’m so glad they didn’t.

Instead, I’ve met two soul mates who lift me up every day and I’ve become a part of a community of even more people who support, inspire, and challenge me. Rather than glorifying the lone artist, I now bask in awe of the incredible people I get to call my friends. As a result, I’ve reached more happiness and fulfillment than I ever could have imagined.

Let’s put the myth of the lone artist to rest. Scratch that – let’s tear down the myth of the lone artist. We need each other. They say that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and it couldn’t be truer. With each other, we can be far greater than we would be on our own. And even better: when we get there, we don’t have to stand on that mountaintop alone.

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