Art Is Like Manure

Thornton Wilder, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and novelist, remarked that “Money is like manure; it’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around encouraging young things to grow.”

The other thing about manure is that it stinks when left in a big pile. But if you spread it around, the smell eventually fades away. If you’ve ever spent a Saturday spreading a load of manure around your yard or garden, you know what I’m talking about.

Art is much the same.

There is a tendency among creative types to hoard their creations. They create and create and create but they never release their work into the world. They hide it away on darkened shelves. Maybe they’re afraid of criticism or rejection — maybe for good reason. But this I know: when I’ve hoarded my artwork into a little heap, it begins to fester and rot.

I start having doubts. I question myself, my skills, and my worthiness. My brain races with negative thoughts, and my heart and soul begin to wither. What started out as positive, joyful self-expression turns into discouragement, despair, and self-loathing.

Yes, there is a time and place for personal work that remains personal. But art, however you define it — sculpture, music, dance, cooking, etc. — is not meant to be hoarded; it is meant to be shared and spread around so it can do some good.

And good comes in many forms.

Good can be as simple as putting a smile on someone’s face who is having a bad day. Good can be helping to give someone creative permission to pursue their own art. Good can hang on someone’s wall or stimulate the senses. Good can also pay the rent.

Get your art out there. Stop hoarding it away in stinky piles and musty closets. Spread it around and encourage things to grow.

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