For eons, authority figures, parents and well-meaning friends have shouted to those with artistic career aspirations, “Are you out of your mind?”

The starving artist syndrome. The fear of it has probably sent tons of immensely talented people into hiding or into jobs they excel at hating.

Have you ever actually defined the term “syndrome”? The Free Online Dictionary states: “A group of symptoms that collectively indicate or characterize a disease, psychological disorder, or other abnormal condition” Wow, who knew? The Encarta World Dictionary states: “A group of things or events that form a recognizable pattern, especially of something undesirable.”

Add starvation on top of that and who wouldn’t run? But what do you run to?

It’s common knowledge that the lingering effects of the 2008 recession, which includes a stubborn high unemployment rate, are daunting. It’s the rare soul who is exempt from its aftermath and monetary lessons. Artists and plumbers alike are revisiting sixth-grade math to balance their checkbooks — and, I might add, not always liking the bottom line.

You know it’s bad when talented people can’t even find a job they hate.

Possibly the disease of the starving artist syndrome has spread to authority figures, parents and well-meaning friends who are really up a creek because they can’t even sing for their dinner.

So what do we do?

We think and create our way out of this and begin to disprove the validity of the starving artist syndrome, regardless of the career we work in or desire to.

First of all, it’s hard to stay focused and positive when you’re bombarded with negatives from myriad media outlets. Fears can replace hope all too quickly. Second of all, it’s extremely challenging to maintain a steady focus in order to create a desirable life when bills are piling up and your current situation is stressful.

But you can. We can. We can turn this around, one small step at a time, even when it feels like one step forward and two steps backward.

It’s about clarity, willingness, attitude, balance and discipline. Yikes, I said the “D” word.

» Clarity: Only you can decide what you want and where you want to go.

» Willingness: You must have the willingness to take action steps toward your goal even when they’re scary, intimidating and overwhelming.

» Attitude: It’s up to you to maintain focus and a positive outlook despite of negative appearances.

» Balance: It only happens when we slow down and take time to reassess our priorities. Then we know what to eliminate and what to add.

» Discipline: It’s up to you to stay awake and be aware at all times of your thoughts, words and actions. Then it’s up to you to elevate them.

If you consistently practice these steps with steady intent, your life will begin to shift and new doors will open. Above all, remain thankful. Gratitude fills in the potholes and makes for a smooth ride.

How dare anyone suggest that we starve or live a life that’s undesirable. Together, let’s disprove and put the starving artist syndrome theory to rest — once and for all.

Susan Ann Darley is a creativity coach, arts writer and author. Through coaching and writing, she motivates people to use their talents and market their creative projects. For more information, click here, e-mail her at or call 805.845.3036.