the question of selfishness

Sometimes people around you can start acting strange when you tell them you are embarking on a creative project. They may express skepticism, they may say something like “you’ll quit, you always quit.”  They may be almost overly supportive at first but almost immediately start making little digs about all the time you are devoting, or how absent minded you sometimes seem.  And, of course, they can call you selfish. 

This one really stings. Because part of you may very well feel that way. 

But it’s not true. Yes. you are devoting yourself to something, going inside yourself, spending as much time as they say you away from them and living in your own little world.  Only it’s not selfish.  It’s the opposite. For a few reasons. And it’s worth it to remind yourself of this.  1) you are trying to create something that you will share with others. Whether it’s a song, a novel, a screenplay or a sculpture, you want to produce something that adds value to the world. This one, the one you are working on right now, may not the one.  But it just might. Artists need to remember that the world needs what they do, values what they do.  So it cannot be selfish to do it. 2) if you give in, give up, abandon it, you may end up being more physically available to those in your life. But the version of you they will now be dealing with will be, in some way, bitter, angry, resentful.  Maybe even a little self loathing. Because you will feel that you have abandoned the best of yourself, the highest hope for yourself. 3) Those around you will ultimately become inspired by you if you stay the course and really do it. And later, they will appreciate you and your work even more than you can imagine. Or they’re the wrong people to have in your life anyway. 

This doesn’t mean that being an artist excuses other selfish behavior. Artists do get carried away, do, from time to time, take advantage of their ‘special’ status.  

But it does mean protect your creative time. Guard it. 

And do your work. Without excuses. Because we need you to produce something great, transportive, elevating. To refuse…now that would be selfish. 

Published by

Brian Koppelman

I'm co-creator/Executive producer of Showtime's Billions. Some of the films I've either written/produced/directed are Solitary Man, Rounders, Ocean's Thirteen, Knockaround Guys, Runaway Jury, The Girlfriend Experience & the 30/30 Documentary on Jimmy Connors. I'm also the host of the podcast The Moment.

2 thoughts on “the question of selfishness”

  1. What I do is a job. Like any other, really. Those few people I call friends know this and respect that. Then again, they’re also in the business and know how it works, so I’m lucky in that respect.

    But if someone finds themselves dealing with a friend or loved one who accuses them of being “selfish” because they’re devoting time to their art, ask them if they’d feel the same way about clocking into a 9-to-5 job? Because, for some, the goal with letting their creativity spread its wings and find a life and a voice and a place in the world is to, god willing, do it well enough and often enough and have it be loved and appreciated enough that it BECOMES their job. A job they love to do which also pays the bills.

    Helping friends and loved ones see your art not as “fun”‘ but as the work it really is is a step in the direction of making the sharing of your creativity a life and not a hobby.

    I think that end goal is worth weathering a few accusations of selfishness.

  2. Your words… “protect your creative time. Guard it.

    And do your work. Without excuses. Because we need you to produce something great, transportive, elevating. To refuse…now that would be selfish.”

    They moved me, after a particularly difficult writing day. 5 pages done, yeah. But it wasn’t easy today. But you gotta’ keep writing. On the good days, and on the bad days. Th story, that way, will shine through.

    Cheers, friend. From Venezuela 🙂

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