At the core of every artist there is a small flame of hope. It burns brighter when we are caught up in the frenzied act of creation, but distance from our art gives the smallest of breezes enough room to blow it out of existence.
Art, at least for me, by definition is really about the end result. The way you make someone feel, or think defines a great piece of art. If that short story you wrote made the reader sit a little straighter and reassess some part of their lives, then you did your job well.
The greatest problem then for artists is that you can’t control how someone is going to view/react to your work. You can’t tell them to think a certain way and they won’t always like or even get it.
To base your entire reason for doing something on hope can seem like madness. So it makes sense that we must learn to trust in our processes. That’s what makes it so crazy. We invest so much into of ourselves into our art out of necessity. If we didn’t, it wouldn’t be authentic. It wouldn’t be real.
It is an incredible amount of pressure to place on yourself. That soul-crushing thought that something you’ve invested your entire being into, can be dismissed or ignored. Or rejected. How do we ever create a single thing if we are so paralysed by the fear?
Courage, dear heart. – C.S Lewis.
We create for ourselves. We don’t create in anticipation of how our story will be read, or how that painting will be received. We create so that our souls might drink in the creativity and trace the feint lines that begin to connect new dots.
And then, after we flay off our layers we must be bold, be crass, be endearing, but most of all be genuine enough to look people in the eye and ask them to gaze right into our souls and find something that resonates with them.
“…Thinking about every single artist I knew – every writer, every actor, every filmmaker, every crazed motherfucker who had decided to forgo a life of predictable income, upward mobility, simple tax returns, and instead pursued a life in which they made their living trying to somehow turn their dot-connecting brains inside out and show the results to the world – and how, maybe, it all boiled down to one thing. BELIEVE ME. Believe me. I’m real.”
– Amanda Palmer.
Amanda has it right. And if we don’t feel worthy of being seen, it feels impossible to ask someone to see you. And not just look, but really see you and connect with you.
I don’t know how you step past that notion of feeling fake. Of feeling like what you are doing isn’t really real art. I spent so many years avoiding the writer’s festivals because I didn’t feel worthy of going. Only real writers went to those right?
Who qualifies as an artist anyway? If the art is about the end product, about how it makes others feel, are you then not a writer if you choose never to share any of your own work?
You can’t connect with your fans if they never have access to your work. Does that mean then, that after having written 140,000 words of a novel, I am not a writer until I publish that work?
Having pressed publish is not the defining quality of being a writer, just as not having your work hanging in a gallery disqualifies you as a painter. What must be true then, is that the act of authentic creation, is what makes you an artist. There are thousands of hours that go into creation before any novel is read, thousands of brushstrokes, thousands of photographs taken before any artwork or photograph is displayed for the world to see.
The way I see it, the two most defining qualities for every artist are:
The ability to surrender to the craft and that small flame of hope, to let it fill you and continue to fill you over and over.
The ability to keep creating for creating’s sake. To keep going until our nails are ripped, our breath is rank from so much coffee and we can’t remember the last time we saw natural sunlight.
When you break it down like that, it seems easy…. right?
So here I am. I’m a writer.
And I’m going to keep writing like no one is watching.
What are you going to do?