What is an artist?
I keep thinking of creativity. Of what it actually means and of what I’m doing with it. Of the little voice in my head that says maybe I’ll have to give this creative life up at some point, maybe it’s a phase I’m going through before I get a “real” life and “real” job.
And then I realize that’s not my voice, but rather a collection of external expectations and doubts meshed with my own uncertainties and fears.
But I keep coming back to the same question – what is it that won’t let me accept myself as an artist, when I know that despite all the problems of this kind of lifestyle, my work is what keeps me going and keeps me involved and keeps me alive?
I realize it’s not just me; so many people pursuing an artistic passion have the same voice. And for many, this voice wears away at their drive and confidence every day until nothing is left.
Whenever someone refers to me as a creative person or an artist, even if it’s as simple as saying my sleep schedule is normal considering I’m an “artist”, or my way of thinking makes sense considering I’m a “creative” person, I feel this pang that I can’t quite explain. Like I’m being assigned an attribute I have not earned the right to claim. Like I’m an impostor that’s good at convincing other people this is who I am, when I feel I have not actually attained that title, nor deserve it.
Why though? Because some small part of me feels that unless I’m 100% financially set based off my work, or famous in that top .01% way of having my photos in respected galleries, my face on screens across the country, my writing in nothing less than National Geographic, I’m a phony. Am I really an artist when I haven’t reached the absolute top and been recognized?
Have you felt that same pang? That accusing voice inside you that tells you your image and persona is a lie? This year, I want to crush it and let a stronger voice overtake that nagging, useless whisper.
Who is this arbitrary judge of creativity, of artistry, of passion that we are all answering to? Art is a journey, creativity a drive; there is no milestone that needs to be attained to be an “artist”. All that is necessary is the thirst to continue thinking and doing and making in a way that hasn’t been done before. All you need is the drive to take this unshaped, unformed thing inside you and channel it out into the world, hoping it will affect someone, anyone – even if it’s just one person. Even if that just one person is you. That’s what creativity is.
And this is what I wanted to put out into the world today.
For every struggling actress who looks down and mumbles her profession, her love, under her breath when someone asks her what she does. That girl who thinks, how can she claim to be an actress, that title held by larger than life women from Katherine Hepburn to Natalie Portman, that glamorous figure that waltzes down red carpets and smiles and waves at cameras and fans, when here she is holding three plates and trying not to crumble at the end of a shift?
For every musician at their office job lying about what they did last night, so their co-worker doesn’t judge them for playing a show in a basement to five people who showed up.
For every writer who can’t see far enough past the piles of rejection letters to show her work, her literary child, to her family and friends.
Because they deserve the right to hold their heads high, own their work, and smile about their art without fearing judgment or mockery. Because that judgment and mockery is most likely coming from within themselves rather than anyone outside.
So, are you an artist?
Do you create something where there was nothing? Do you add to the world what wasn’t there before instead of standing to the side, simply executing someone else’s dream, or judging? Then you are an artist.
It does not matter if you are “paying your dues”, if no one knows your name, if you work a job you hate or feel disrespected in to support your art. That job does not have to define you, it’s what you do to get by. You are an artist and you have a right to that title.