The Art of Listening and Thinking for Yourself

Louise Goffin calls for us all to have faith in the unseen.

Artists, in their many forms, are in a unique position to speak out in ways that empower others who either don’t have a voice or are afraid to use it. Why is this? Artists, for their survival, have to be constantly both seeing and pursuing values that are not in plain sight. Like visionaries (looking up “visionary” in a dictionary will tell you that a visionary is “a person with original ideas about what the future will or could be like”), artists who’ve lived their lives built on a vision of what they are working and living toward can testify to the power of something invisible — as long as they trust what they see when no one else sees it. It takes a lot of believing to do this without reassurances or much proof along the way.

Artists have to not only see something that is not yet there, but also follow its lead to bring it into existence.

I’ve always been an artist first, and not inclined to do the things that someone who is strictly of a marketing mindset might do. Still, I’ve learned along the way: a brand name can lump many refined things into something easier to grasp. Artists have to not only see something that is not yet there, but also follow its lead to bring it into existence — it’s a way of looking at the world that is counterintuitive to marketing and campaigning, because, let’s face it, selling focuses on what already exists. Artists prefer the playground of what isn’t yet seen.

It’s not easy to discover that people generally don’t buy what they can’t see, and we live a lonely path until our work’s manifest. We find other values that keep us going. Artists’ lifestyles can often be a training ground for not living by other people’s definitions, and they find themselves constantly miscategorized simply because others just don’t see what they see. It’s easy to watch years go by struggling with insecurity and doubt that they even see what they’re seeing — at times they need someone else to believe for them to get through the stretches during which they want to give up. Some artists are stronger in their resolve than others, but the commonality that unites everyone who follows the unseen is: you must learn who you are and make something other people will be able to see, even if for the moment you’re the only person who sees it.

Every artist, in his or her own way, is trying to prove that something as invisible as electricity really can light up the planet.

Painters, poets, songwriters, troubadours, writers, playwrights, screenwriters, actors, comedians — all makers of things that haven’t previously existed — you are the everyday people in training to be overlooked and ignored, but you still keep going, believing in what you see.

So, artists of every kind from everywhere with the full palette of all of you — your varied backgrounds and stories, your joys and sufferings, your triumphs and losses — we need you to lead the way with your art. We need your voices and your words. You already have been doing this all your lives. You know how to do this long enough to make us feel when we’re frozen and laugh when we’re in despair. You do this and you give hope when we’re feeling alone and we think there’s no one noticing. You’re sensitive creatures like whales that hear a sound hundreds of sea miles away. Let your imagination run like wild dogs whose ears prick up long before we feel the first quaking of the ground. Show us all how to step outside the confines of the rules long enough to change our perspectives.

Sing us a love song.

(Photo credit: Amanda Bjorn Photography)