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Are You a Shadow Artist?

Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way talks about being a shadow artist. In her book, It's Never Too Late to Begin Again, she says a shadow artist is someone who has creative urges or abilities and chooses a career that is close to the life they would like to have themselves, but are afraid to pursue.

So, they settle for something in the "shadow" of their true heart's desire. A painter becomes a gallery owner, a playwright works in the front office of a theater company, or a photographer becomes an assistant to another photographer. Those folks satisfy their creative needs by being part of the world of art, but without the actual creation.

For some reason the shadow artist idea popped into my mind when I was thinking about unsatisfied desires. Retirement is the time of life when we are often able to pursue something that has eluded us until now. Yet, for a host of reasons, we remain in the shadows of that dream, unable to take the steps necessary to fully realize it.

Financial constraints, life circumstances, or health reasons may hold us back. Ms. Cameron suggests it can be a lack of belief in our own talents and a fear of failure. So, think of any part of our life that is lived more on the edges of something than being fully engaged:

1) You have always wanted to compete in a marathon. Instead you take part in organizing local 5 or 10K runs and remain somewhat unsatisfied.

2) Your photography generates very positive comments from friends. Instead of seeing if your work will sell, you are content to display it in your home and for family.

3) You love to write and seem to have a knack for it. But, instead of the hard work needed to produce a book, you are content to attend artist signings or write a blog.

4) You watch the Food Network, collect kitchen gadgets, and find great recipes on You Tube. Even so, your weekly menu seems to always be the safe choices you know others will like.

5) You collect travel videos and guidebooks of the places you'd love to explore in person, but never actually go.

6) It has always been a goal to go back to college and get that degree that eluded you in your youth. Instead, you find yourself attending free adult classes at the local community college.

Importantly, none of these six examples indicate failure. In their own way, each can be very satisfying and fulfilling. Creativity is evident in virtually everything we do. Creativity is simply the use of imagination or original ideas. Being even a small part of the world that excites you is a good thing.

The question is whether we settle for less than we can be. We get close to a dream, but, stay in its shadow. Is there any part of your retirement that is prompting you to move from the shadows into the light?


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