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The artist painting a canvas; the perfect life analogy

Updated: Jan 25, 2023

the thing that sparked the artist life analogy

The other day, curled up on my couch, drinking my favourite cup of tea (decaffeinated Earl Grey with honey, if you really must know), I was chatting to a friend on the phone and having one of the deep conversations the two of us always tend to find ourselves in.

One of us (not sure who, but most likely me), referred to the by now well-known analogy of a person's life being compared to a story and the person, as the author of the story, as being in control of how that story (their life) plays out.

My friend, in his usual way of pondering things from various perspectives, said,

"You know, for all its popularity, that analogy is actually a very poor way of looking at our lives."

I argued with him, at first, because I thought he just didn't understand it. But as his words flowed over me, I began to understand what he was saying, and the more he spoke, the more I got that tingly feeling of inspiration running through my veins, and I KNEW I had a better analogy that would address the major flaw he was pointing out in the author one!

I was SO excited about this new analogy, I knew I just HAD to share it with every single sister I could!

The flaw in the "author of your life" analogy

So the basic premise of "the author of your life" analogy is that in order to feel more empowered and in control of your life, you view your life as a story. Now, you can allow yourself to just be a character in your story, and get jostled about by all the events happening to you or, as advocates of this analogy will say, you can take hold of the pen and be the author of your own story. In other words, you get to create the story you want to be in.

What an empowering way to think of your life and to completely change your mindset, right?

Well, as it turns out, there is an inherent flaw in this analogy. You see, an author writing a story has control of everything. They control all the characters; what they say and do at any given moment from mean knee-jerk reactions to kind and loving responses. They also control the events that happen in the story; things like the weather, car accidents, love affairs, murders, job promotions, abuse. Literally every possible happenstance and character in the story is controlled by the author, including the ending.... the ending plays out exactly the way the author wants it to. To reiterate, the author has ABSOLUTE control.

And therein lies the flaw.

In life, the only thing we have control over is ourselves. We have no idea what events may happen throughout our day. We don't know that a coworker will have an emotional breakdown at lunch. We don't know that today's the day we will get into a car accident on our way to work, or that we will lose a limb, or get diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, or win a trip to the Dominican.

And we never have any idea how things will end; if the love of our lives will suffer from alcoholism, or if someone will abuse our daughters, or if we will ever make a million dollars or fall in love one more time.

So the flaw is that the author of a story controls everything unlike in life where people only have control over themselves.

And yes, I know there's no analogy that's perfect, but this one really actually falls far from the mark. And yes, as I said earlier, I argued at first too. But it's hard to argue with truth.

So there it is.

A new and improved life analogy

So, remember that inspiration I was struck with during my phone call?

Here is the new and improved analogy that works so much better than the author one.

Be the artist of your life so you can paint the canvas of your dreams.

Now, I know what you're thinking. This is exactly the same analogy but with artist and canvas just replacing author and story. And it does, at first, appear to be so.

But allow me to elaborate.

I am an artist (an intuitive artist), and in case you aren't, let me explain what happens when I paint. As the paintbrush touches the canvas or paper, beautiful colours and images appear... ones that I am, for the most part, controlling. I am making them happen. But then suddenly... I've gone too far. I added one too many colours and I've got an ugly muddy spot right in the middle of the canvas. Or maybe I step back and notice the last shape I drew is too big and clunky and doesn't match the rest of the painting. Or oops! I've spilled black paint on it!

These are all types of unexpected problems that artists may face at any given time. They are frustrating, disappointing, upsetting, and dejecting to say the least.

Now, as the artist, you can curl up in a ball and cry, you can slash the canvas in anger, you can yell at it and say you're a terrible artist and you're never painting again. And you can stay stuck in this negative miserable space. OR.... you can grab your brush and start adding paint to see how you can fix it, or blend it in by painting over it with new colours or flowers or swirls until the painting becomes a thing of beauty again that lifts your heart and makes you feel joy.

It is this experience of the artist that truly mirrors life. That black paint you spilled on the side of your canvas? That's the unexpected illness or death of a loved one.The muddy mess you accidentally made in the middle? That's the poor way you handled the irate client that complained about you to your boss. And that big clunky shape that doesn't seem to belong? That's that guy you keep dating that you know isn't right for you.

We have no control over that client, or the illness or death of a loved one, or that the guy we are dating is, in fact, not the one. Just as we didn't know the painting accidents would happen.

Now, in life, when these things happen, we can just give up, stay stuck, and feel depressed that nothing ever goes right. We can adopt the attitude of "what's the point?" just as the artist does who slashes the painting and yells and cries. And, in life, we can decide to believe that no matter what we do, bad things will always happen to us so we might as well give up. We can stay stuck and miserable.

OR, we can accept that this accident has happened, PICK UP THE DAMN BRUSH,

and work with the unfortunate circumstance (think black spill or wrong boyfriend) until we incorporate it into the beauty of the painting as a whole.

This action and incorporation that the artist undertakes mirrors, almost perfectly, how we empower ourselves in life. When, for instance, we begin to accept the death of a loved one and its subsequent grief and decide to create traditions around their memory instead of stagnating in the neverending sadness. And when we tell the guy that we are dating, that it's been fun but it's just not the right match for you. And when we call a meeting with the irate client in an attempt to repair the relationship and see what can be done.

The final piece of this analogy is, of course, that in both life and art, we never know for sure how it will turn out.The painting may not look as rosy as originally imagined. It may have a slightly darker or moodier appearance, or maybe there are flowers where you weren't expecting any. And the meeting with that client may not go well and you may lose them, but perhaps you will gain a new more lucrative one that you are able to help exponentially more than you did the one you lost. We add paint, make different decisions, and do the best we can, hoping for particular endings but never knowing for sure how everything will end up. That's life. And that's the creative process.

So, are you beginning to see the perfection of this analogy? Can you see how the process of creating art mirrors the process of life? Do you see how referring to ourselves as the artist and our lives as the canvas is the perfect analogy for how our lives unfold? Do you see how even though you can't control others or the events that occur around you, you CAN soften them with your paintbrush and work them into the beauty of how you desire your life to be?

I absolutely LOVE this analogy. It is empowering and beautifying, it embraces acceptance, and it acknowledges the inevitability of the ups and downs of life.

How the artist life analogy can be used to your advantage

So it's all fine and dandy to have an amazing life analogy, right? But there's not really any point to it, if it doesn't help or benefit us in some way. So this begs the question,

"How can the artist life analogy help us?"

It benefits us because it allows us to see that although we do not have absolute control over life, we DO have enough control to do the things we want to do, hang out with the people who are our kindred spirits, steer clear of toxic people and situations, and to adjust our perspective on how to manage the less than desirable things that will inevitably come our way. And this knowledge, in turn, empowers us to follow our passions and make decisions that are in line with our purpose so we can live the life of our dreams!

And so, I have only one sentiment left to share with you.

You ARE the artist of your life.


and paint yourself the most beautiful and amazing life

you can imagine!

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