The Artist as Frustrated Lawyer


In On Acting, by legendary acting teacher Sanford Meisner, Meisner’s assistant reads to his acting class an excerpt from Sigmund Freud’s Introduction to Psychoanalysis:

The artist has also an introverted disposition and has not far to go to become neurotic. He is one who is urged on by instinctual needs which are too clamorous; he longs to attain to honour, power, riches, fame, and the love of women; but he lacks the means of achieving these gratifications. So, like any other with an unsatisfied longing, he turns away from reality and transfers all his interest, and all his libido too, onto the creation of his wishes in the life of fantasy . . . .

Someone once told me, and I long accepted, that all lawyers are frustrated artists. Lots of lawyers have creative hobbies — music, theatre, writing, painting, photography — that they think they would pursue if only they had the time or the temperament or the talent. The only job that I can think of that I would have than my own is Jimmy Buffett’s — a job for which I am transparently and immutably unqualified.

From Freud’s description, though, it would seem that the better generalization is that artists are frustrated lawyers.

If we didn’t have the means of achieving honor, power, riches, fame, and the love of women, what great art we might create!


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