Shelley Widhalm

Posts Tagged ‘Starving Artists’

Starving Artist (or is it something else?)

In On Being a Writer, Shelley Widhalm on August 2, 2015 at 11:00 am

I’ve become insecure as a writer, not in my ability to write but in getting noticed. That’s because it takes a great deal of work, or luck, or a combination of both, to get recognized in the writing community through publication, book sales and successful readings.

For those writers still struggling to make it, there should be a new term—not starving artist but ignored artist. Maybe the ignored artist pursues writing full-time without working, or she takes the safe route and works at a non-passion job to pay the bills and does the writing on the side. She questions what she’s doing, but keeps on going because writing is who she is. It’s what she wants. It’s what she loves. She can’t think of not writing.

This ignored artist is the one who compiles the rejection notices and keeps working at writing, because it’s what she has to do. But then she realizes she’s spending her free time in front of a computer, where she spends her days, too, and she wants to go be social and gather experiences, but if she collects experiences, she’ll want to write about them, too.

The writer is stuck being who she is. She just wants attention. And, of course, she wants to write.

See Zoey the Cute Dachshund’s response to the self-reflective, wondering-about-the- artist self blog at Also, see next week’s blog on Sunday, Aug. 9, about addressing feeling overwhelmed by the writing life and how to move forward from here.

The Broken-Hearted Starving Artist

In 52: A Writer's Life, Shelley Widhalm, Writing on April 28, 2013 at 11:00 am

Sometimes, I wish I was a practical salesperson, manager type or businessperson who knew how to make things happen.

Instead, I’ve got my head in the clouds with my fingers itching, my heart running out of control and my senses on the constant search for the space-time continuum to write.

I don’t fold into starving artist status because I’m practical, a quality that gets me to work, smacks my butt into a cubicle chair and makes me put in the hours.

But this practicality interferes with the artist self. I am left with little time for creativity, writing and imagination. I have to wedge in the time, instead of allowing for writing to be a part of my daily work life where I have several hours to devote to the process.

The result is lost poems and short stories, because the inspiration, motivation and readiness to write do not follow a schedule. I have to tamp down that artist self and forget her calling out to me in order to be what I am not.

The artist self has to be blocked into free time before and after work between chores, family time and the time for living, experiencing and hanging out with friends. She gets lost, bored, lonely and tired, too, from knocking on my soul’s door when I can’t listen.

I tell her that I’m busy.

She curls up trying to take up less space, knowing she’s rejected.

If she weren’t there inside me, even when she takes up less and less space, the fact of her being there starts breaking my heart. She’s in there wanting expression, and because she’s trying to rise up when I push her down, I am in constant conflict. I can’t rest or be at peace.

I feel guilty when I don’t write during my free time, but then when I just go live, she’s there soaking up my heartbeat, so I can’t forget her.

I can’t forget her because she is part of who I am.

She is why I don’t give up writing, even if being practical would be an easier way to earn a paycheck.

Starving Artist Poem

In 52: A Writer's Life, Poetry, Shelley Widhalm, Writing on March 3, 2013 at 11:00 am

The question of being who you are is more difficult if you are afraid, both of uncertainty and of starvation. This poem reflects that question I find to be a constant struggle.

Becoming, or Not

I am not what you say:

I become what you want
you with a capital
I could not begin
to write my letters
how I feel them
pump through my thoughts –
Go away, I must shear
each one off to make
myself simple, a 9-to-5 girl
with a lost heart.