The worst thing for any artist (I’m certain) is when you complete something that you’ve poured your heart and soul into, and you look at it with the sudden realization that it’s crap. I don’t think there is an artist around who doesn’t have a little voice in their head telling them that they suck, and once in a while taunting them to give up altogether. It’s even worse if the artist has no other outlet. Last week when I was considering no longer writing, the only thing that came to mind was to buy a surf board and call it a day.
It’s so weird and awkward to be faced with insecurities out of nowhere when you’ve moved along feeling quite secure. You followed your gut, and everything felt so intense and right, so you went with it for months at a time, but you were kind of in your own world during that duration, and then you get out into the real world around people who seem to have something that you don’t have, and immediately you’re like, “I’m clueless. I’ve been delusional this whole time, or naive, or perhaps just foolish.” You stand there and feel like your legs have been kicked from beneath your torso, and if you’re anything like me, you don’t know what to do with your hands. I’m always looking around for napkins to shred in these situations. So you go home and you take it all in, and you’re like, “What am I supposed to do now that I know I’m lacking everything.” It sweeps over you for a few days, while confusion is poking at you to go down a different path. I should be more literary and less visionary. I should be more like her, or after the same things as him… At middle age, you feel like you’re in high school again and you’re wondering which bridge is closest to home (Richmond or Golden Gate) so you can jump off, but you laugh at yourself for being so dramatic, just like in high school. I’m just going to buy a surf board, you think. And call it a day. I have absolutely no place in this world. Then you just stand there for a while not buying into the confusion. By just observing it you realize that it’s really beneficial to see your insecurities, because those pockets of weakness inside yourself need some serious attention. So you decide to be compassionate toward yourself and to not make any sudden decisions or changes. There’s something brewing within. You know it. And because of this moment of terror, and facing the terror (rather than pretending it didn’t happen), you grow. You grow stronger, wiser, a little more in tune with yourself. You become a little more rooted in who you are, because you didn’t sway in the moment of confusion. You just stood there and allowed it to sweep over you, like an oak tree standing tall and strong in a winter wind. Some old branches got blown off, and you feel a little bit bare, but you’re still standing there. Those old branches and leaves aren’t who you are. They’re simply images that deflect the whole of you. They often hide you, even from yourself, but when they get swept away unexpectedly, you get a good look at yourself, which is so beneficial, because you’re bigger and stronger than those parts of yourself that wither and die (the images). You’re something of greater value, and though you can’t put your finger on what that is, (because it’s impossible to identify something so empty of identification) you know it’s significant and that you should spend more energy on that part of you, which is always growing and becoming stronger. It’s beyond the illusions you put out to the world to help you fit in. I think it’s good to know that you don’t always fit in, because it reminds you to root yourself into the ground, rather than showing off your leaves.
Artists are faced with doubt more than the average person because many of them are placing themselves out for scrutiny. Opinions of other people about your work is so subjective, so it’s important to have a vision for where you’re headed and to not get lost in the maze of other people’s standards. This applies in life as well. I may work a menial job, which will be judge by certain individuals who have secured themselves a fabulous career, but I also know that it’s incredibly temporary. I work the job to pay the bills. My vision for my life goes way beyond the office. So I can’t get caught up in the disapproval of other people. Comparing our artwork to artists in a different genre, is foolish. I mean, I get scoffed at once in a while by literary snobs who don’t think what I write is “real” writing, but half of them haven’t written a fraction of what I’ve written (I’ve prudently observed). At least I’m putting my work out there, rather than just standing around and talking about my ideas for the book that I haven’t written yet, or making excuses for why I haven’t written anything. I’m getting better each time I complete a manuscript. Anyone who’s completed writing a book, knows the struggles, dedication, and hard work it takes to actually finish the job. Those who have done it usually respect anyone who at least finishes writing a book, no matter the subject. It’s admirable in any case, especially because you’re basically standing there naked for the world to see you (if they are that interested)… and that takes guts. I think standing there with your guts hanging out says more about you than your artwork. Your artwork is the leaves. Your courage is the tree.
To actually stand there and have the courage to admit that you may suck, yet not giving up in the face of defeat, is like rooting yourself into the ground, shedding old leaves and spreading your branches out toward the sun a little bit farther. When you are faced with these uncomfortable adversities, you’re challenged enough to keep becoming who you are deep down inside, rather than shallowly striving to be like everyone else. Good for you. You only spend moments with other people. You spend a lifetime with yourself, so don’t let the world sway you. When you feel shaken, root yourself in deeper, stand taller and let go of those leaves that no longer suit you. Ask yourself if you’re missing something that you may want to work on from here on out. Trust in the process of feeling confused and insecure once in a while. That confusion and insecurity is giving you a good opportunity to look at yourself, and to recall your vision, and to see if you’re on track. I think it’s good to remind ourselves that everyone feels insecure once in a while, but those who are great, strive not for greatness, but to merely be themselves.