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The Fame Drug

The antidote revealed...

Article by by Eric Copeland

"I won't be happy till I'm as famous as God." - Madonna
"Don't confuse fame with success. Madonna is one; Helen Keller is the other."  - Erma Bombeck


Probably the biggest hurdle that creative folks have to deal with is...fame.

Now everyone will say they don't need to be famous. Especially in Christian music, artistic endeavors for the church, or just satisfying our creative souls, we like to think we're doing it for the "right" reasons. But there is always that little "what if" in the back of our minds. That little voice that says, "what if this becomes BIG!!!"

Some nights laying wide awake in bed, or during the day driving to work in the car, we allow ourselves to daydream a bit and think..."What if somebody really likes this, or it becomes the next Myspace/Youtube/NextThing sensation and millions of people love it, and I get a big deal with a really large..." Then your spouse turns over, or the light turns green, and we're back to the real world. And the real world kind of depresses us a bit more as if penalizing us for being so silly. Why? We were just feeling the effects of the Fame Drug.

Every now and then I find a new book on Creativity, and recently have found a whopper: "The
Artists Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity" by Julia Cameron. Here's what she says about the Fame Drug:

"Fame is a spiritual drug. It is often a by-product of our artistic work, but like nuclear waste, it can be a very dangerous by-product...The point of the work IS the work. Fame interferes with that perception. Instead of acting being about acting, it becomes about being a famous actor. Instead of writing being about writing, it becomes about being recognized, not just published.

"We all like credit where credit is due. As artists, we don't always get it. Yet, focusing on fame--on whether we are getting enough--creates a continuing feeling of lack. There is never enough of the fame drug. Wanting more will always snap at our heels, discredit our accomplishments, and erode our joy at other's accomplishments.

"To test this, read any of the many fan magazines--People (or CCM) for instance--and see if afterward your life somehow feels more shabby, less worthwhile. This is the fame drug at work."

I have seen this devastate many artists. Working hard to write and make a new CD, get it out there, and try to promote it. Only to see other (seemingly less talented or deserving) artists make it big with crap. Here they are selling junk by the millions, and you're lucky if somebody buys a CD from your website each MONTH!

Then there is American Idol (so aptly named), and all the other talent contest "reality" shows that just make the fame drug more and more potent.  The sad thing is, I have seen the fame drug really zap artists and ministries that were at one time on FIRE for the Lord. They feel that no one is listening, or interested. Certainly not like people are in MWS, SCC, POD, or other three letter success stories.

I've felt this way as a jazz artist and songwriter. While I've found steady work as a producer and general cheerleader for creative types, my original (and current) dreams are much like most of my artists: to find an audience for my particular brand of creative passions.

And it has been a long road. The times I've felt the lowest are when either I didn't get the "deal" I was hoping for, or I saw other amazing artists in the place where I dreamed of being Bruce Hornsby (I think lives my dream life and may in fact have stolen it from me. Not sure.)

Of course, most of my idols are jazz guys, and have practiced intensely each day since they were 5 (unlike me who played only what i wanted to play, then just hit the transpose button and hired great players to do the rest!) So, it's more about roads not taken, but still it can be discouraging to feel like "wow, they are WAY down the road, and I'm still right here..."

But again, that's the fame drug talking. We're completely missing the point. And again takes us back to where most of my rants bring us to. We have to get back to what we love to do. We have to get to the simple act of creating and loving it to truly find happiness in the gift God gave us.

More from "The Artist's Way":

"When the fame drug hits go to your easel, your typewriter, your camera or clay (or piano or guitar). Pick up the tools of your work and begin to do just a little creative play. Soon, very soon, the fame drug should start to lessen it's hold. The only cure for the fame drug is creative endeavor. Only when we are being joyfully creative can we release the obsession with others and how THEY are doing."

Wow. When I read this I RAN to the computer to type this to you guys. I know this to be true with all my heart. Recently I have been working on some new CDs of my own that have been in process for quite some time.

Working for clients, my job is to prepare them for the marketplace and frankly, feed the fame drug. What we produce has to compete on the shelves and on the radio waves. That's why clients come to me. But this personal work of mine I have decided to do quite differently. Yes, I'll work with players, sell the CDs on my site and try to find outlets, but the bottom-line is it has to be a fun, relaxing, fulfilling thing to do. I'm even mixing it. And I'm very happy with the results.

So far, it's pretty amazing to do it this way. No pressure. No worries. No fame drug. Just pure creative fulfillment. I may even release CDs where no one is involved whatsoever except me.

Of course, as Christian artists we have the obvious reason not to SEEK the fame of the world:  1 Corinthians 2:12 "We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us."

1 John 2:16, 17- For everything in the world-the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does-comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

Here's a few more great quotes about fame.

"Happy is the man who hath never known what it is to taste of fame --to have it is a purgatory, to want it is a Hell!"
  --  Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton

"Throughout my life, I have seen narrow-shouldered men, without a single exception, committing innumerable stupid acts, brutalizing their fellows and perverting souls by all means. They call the motive for their actions fame."--  Isidore Ducasse, Comte De Lautreamont

"Now there is fame! Of all -- hunger, misery, the incomprehension by the public -- fame is by far the worst. It is the castigation of God by the artist. It is sad. It is true."
  --  Pablo Picasso

"Fame has also this great drawback, that if we pursue it, we must direct our lives so as to please the fancy of men." --  Baruch Benedict de Spinoza

This week, try letting go of your fame addiction a little (yes, you have one to some degree). Tune out the web, TV, magazine, and just create.

Eric Copeland is only famous in his own mind, and other very, very small niches. He did eat at Famous Daves the other day however. His company Creative Soul develops amazing, imaginative materials for Christian and jazz folks on a daily basis, with a fair modicum of success. Check out http://www.creativesoulonline.com for more info...

Email: info@creativesoulonline.com  Phone: 615-400-3910