The Secret Ingredient

Aspiring artists have always been searching for the secret ingredient, for that special trait that makes some artists great. After all, in a way, it goes beyond talent as an innate ability, beyond acquired skill, beyond hard work, determination, or luck.

The secret ingredient is often mistakenly interpreted as having something to do with the struggling artist’s myth. In a way, it does.

For a long time I thought so myself. That only through great emotional and/or physical pain do you become a great artist. I thought suffering to be inexorably tied to an artist’s destiny. But then I reconsidered, and you can read all about it here.

I realized that the so called secret ingredient was empathy, which, I believe, is acquired. At least, at a certain level.

Because an artist’s capability to sympathize, understand, and analyze another human being goes far beyond any natural skills we may posses. It goes beyond good and evil, beyond kindness, beyond anything you’ll encounter in the day to day lives of regular people.

For instance, an artist’s most astonishing ability is that he can write about people who are entirely different from him and situations he never experienced. He can write about what he doesn’t know, mostly because he is willing to become someone else, even if it is for only a few moments.

It’s like acting. You become someone else, someone you never were and never will be.

And all artists are great, great actors, even if they don’t always show that to others.

But what makes another person willing to become someone else? Is it that his own life is so terrible that he’d do anything to escape it? I don’t know.

Pain and suffering can’t really be measured. We are all unique in that regard, and what breaks me might not even put a grimace on your face.

Now for another question. The best stories ever written are the ones that make us feel nostalgic about a life we almost had. The closer we were to reaching it, the more nostalgic we feel. For instance, a love story. If done right, you should feel as if you’re falling in love. How many love stories have you read that made you feel as if you’d do anything for another person to love you like that?

Great art makes you fall in love with the artist, because underneath all the masks and the lies and the silly games, all artists are trying to reach out to their audience. They are all trying to answer some of life’s undesirable questions: Who am I? Why am I here?

Of course, there are always exceptions. Writers who write only about themselves, and use introspection the same way most writers use empathy, which is to make people feel, to make them translate the message in such a way that they can relate.

Do you know why art feels so personal? Not only to the artist, but to the audience as well? Because all works of art are missing pieces. And you have to put those pieces yourself. Sometimes you have to use your imagination and just pretend, but other times you have to use real pieces, pieces from your soul, and use them to translate the message the artist is trying to transmit.

Not to overly intellectualize this whole thing, but, in a way, any work of art allows you to build a self that didn’t use to exist before. And you’re willing to protect that self from anyone who tries to destroy it.

Here’s the thing. I’m what you’d call an independent writer. No one selling out to some big media corporation.

I write stuff. You read it. It’s that simple.

Now, I’m very grateful to be able to do this. But it’s not an accident. I’m not some rich guy with nothing better to do than read books and write articles. Daddy never bought me a Ferrari.

All I have is you. My readers. People who love what I do enough that they’re willing to help me keep being able to do it.

There’s no middle man here. I write stuff you like (or hate) and then I say, “Uhh, hey, mind giving me enough money so I don’t starve to death?” And then amazing people like you do. Because you rock. And you’d like to see more of this type of content. So you think to yourself, “Hey, maybe this guy Cristian deserves a good meal,” and then you give me enough money to go buy a cheeseburger.

That’s how it works, and that’s how it should work.

So if you’ve ever liked or shared an article of mine. If you’ve ever read something and thought, “Man, that’s amazing!” If something I’ve written has ever added an ounce of value to your life. Consider throwing me a few bucks.

That’s all it is. A few bucks to feed Cristian and help Cristian write more stuff. It allows me to keep doing what I love doing. And it keeps things simple. No middle man. No bullshit. Just me doing my thing and you reading and (hopefully) liking it.

So, just use the (not so) shiny donate button below and thank you so much for allowing me to do this.


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