The old saw that all artists are inherently screwed up people is really annoying to me. Perhaps we’ve had some screwed up things happen, perhaps we have some diseases that makes our bodies a bit screwed up, but to think we can only create if we’re the equivalent of a pencil scrawl is just … dumb. It ignores the reality that there are creative people out there who have managed to be so by taking care of themselves, by overcoming their addictions, by getting help for the way family and life have messed them up, or by simply meeting adversity and actively choosing and doing the work necessary to maintain sanity like a finely kept lawn of persona. For those familiar with King of the Hill, Hank Hill is a boring American Texan surrounded by people on various levels of crazy and creative. At his worst, her personifies the inner critic – always trying to stifle his son Bobby’s dreams of becoming a stand-up comic, sort of ignoring his wife’s Peggy’s first forays into writing, and upholding American tradition circa 1950 like many a self-styled patriot.
At his best, Hank is the best inner caretaker he could be. He interposes himself between Peggy and her target when her competitive nature goes off the rails, he often gives in and supports Bobby in his performance endeavors (and is sometimes even a little proud) and when something is just plain not fair, even if he disagrees with it, he upholds justice. If he served no other purpose at all, he keeps the world a safer place by preventing his conspiracy-theory loaded neighbor from inadvertently blowing up the neighborhood. Hank is known for his well-kept lawn – it is his symbol of civility, decorum, and care for yourself and your neighbors.
I like to think all stable artists have an inner Hank in them somewhere, that they’ve trained to focus on keeping the lawn rather than on bitching about whether or not prop comedy is funny.
This is an ongoing list, and I will likely make this a page at some point. But to start, it’s a list of artists that have their stuff together. They may have experienced addictions or breakdowns in the past, but they are successful in that they are creating right now, having dealt with all that stuff. Others just chose to remain boring, keep their heads down, and create. I invite you to add names to this list in comments.
- Neil Gaiman
- Seth Green
- Felicia Day
- Roger Ebert
- Julia Cameron
- Jennifer Aniston
- Courtney Cox
- Alanis Morisette
- Kevin Smith (obviously he uses substances, but public meltdowns are not his thing.)