Are You an Artisan or a Hack?
In his book The War of Art, Steven Pressfield outlines and fleshes out the battle of creativity and artistry that any entrepreneur goes through in order to give birth the things of real value from which others will gain benefit.
Through his own experiences and reflections on humanity, Pressfield powerfully makes the case for the releasing of the artist (or artisan) that lies within the creative higher self we each have.
Although Pressfield doesn’t use the word artisan, but artist, in my book the only tangible difference is the territory traditionally ascribed to each.
And, it’s in the idea of territory that he asserts his premise that this is only real ‘place’ where every true artist can flourish, whether they are a fusion researcher, scientist, entrepreneur, body builder, fashion designer, or writer.
‘Territory’ in essence, as Pressfield defines it, is the region of expertise or influence within which the true artisan flows with purpose and energy, giving birth to what is hidden within, purely for the purpose that it must be released into the world.
On the other hand, the opposite of territory – hierarchy – is a stultifying and inhibiting framework of operation. In a hierarchy, the artist is reduced to being a hack: someone who produces only for affect; not for the higher ideal of releasing inspiration into the world, but for the egocentric accolades they wish to receive from others as a consequence of their creation.
As Pressfield defines it then, the hack has sold out on the higher goals of sharing their intrinsic creativity, to a baser version which is only interested in producing something that will promote the hack’s ego contra his or her peers.
In plain English: the hack does his or her work thinking of how their potential audience will or won’t like the results, but the artist does her work to bring forth of what is within, whether or not an audience exists to receive it.
The artisan gains his or her energy and sustenance from doing the work itself, and not from the praise they hope to receive.
So, is it better to be an artist/artisan or a hack? Clearly not a hack, because at worst a hack is a sycophantic people-pleaser, pandering to the perceived opinions of those the hack is trying to impress, with the hope of receiving some positive affirmation or recognition.
When none comes, the hack is devastated, not having any internal reference point from which to seek solace.
The artist/artisan, on the other hand, travails like a mother-to-be in labor, and as Pressfield beautifully describes, and cries in awe when the miracle baby is held in her arms.
So, can only the hack become wealthy? The answer I believe, is that the hack is never wealthy, even if they are a multi-millionaire, because their offering is never given: instead, the hack always remain the victim of the approval of others, always seeking to compete in a hierarchy rather than operating with skill in their own territory or expertise.
Can the artist/artisan be wealthy? My point is that they will always be wealthy, whether they live in a wooden shack in a shanty town, or in a grand mansion in Beverley Hills. What defines the artist is not the approval of of others’ praise or money showered upon them, but the satisfaction that comes from within at having completed the work that they ached to bring forth, regardless of onlookers’ nods or shakes of head.
Make up your mind then, to be an artist/artisan, and not a hack.
And if you are in any doubt, read Pressfield’s book, the War of Art.