Often when people post their art in the communities I’m part of they follow it up with ‘but I’m not a real artist’ or ‘but it’s just my hobby’. As if there is some kind of division between ‘real artists’ who can post their art without caveat and ‘not real artists’ who need to qualify it before posting (because otherwise what..?).
This might have something to do with someone’s personal level of confidence or the way society views art, or a combination of both. I definitely identify with this tendency, this wish to let people know you don’t want them to judge you too harshly or to let them know you’re not full of yourself. This desperate wish to take a bit of that huge vulnerability out of creating or sharing something so personal as your own art.
It also might even stop you from creating in the first place. That feeling of not being good enough or not qualified enough. Why should you do it if there are so many other people who might do it better?
A couple of weeks back I went to NineWorlds (it is an inclusive geek convention, it’s amazing!) and I put myself forward to speak on a panel about problematic issues in the work of Joss Whedon. As a self-professed Whedonite (I wrote my undergrad thesis on Buffy the Vampire Slayer) I’m semi qualified to speak on this subject.
But I worried. What if I didn’t know enough? What if I wasn’t good enough or couldn’t contribute? What if my knowledge was too niche (e.g. just about BtVS instead of all of Whedon’s work)? What if other people knew way more about the subject? What if people from the audience looked at me and thought ‘pfft what is she doing on that panel’?
I discussed these fears with my therapist and he suggested:
What if simply being interested is enough?
This actually touches on something that I read in Brené Brown’s book Daring Greatly (I mentioned this book in my previous post) in which she proposes a culture of ‘enough’. That instead of trying to be perfect, we should simply try to be engaged.
When you feel passionate, interested and excited about what you do, it doesn’t matter whether people like it, because the right people will respond to your engagement. When you downplay something, you are giving people a signal that it’s unlikely to be interesting to them, because they will simply mirror your own (lack of) enthusiasm.
This is what I try to do now with my art. I try and move away from the questions of ‘is it good enough?’ or ‘will people like it?’ and instead I try to move towards ‘is this interesting to me?’ and ‘does this make me feel excited?’.