Last week, I had a chat with a good friend of mine who had just had a negative experience to which I know we can all somehow relate. He’d just come back from a relatively unsatisfying con – one at which despite meeting a lot of interesting people and enjoying the overall positive atmosphere, he also made very few sales, and was met with a few disparaging comments about the art he worked so hard to sell. This launched a very interesting discussion about the various pains associated with the act of creation.
Everyone who goes to cons regularly has experienced this, and everyone who puts out art into the world has also been met with some kind of negativity at some point in their lives. When we think about the time we put into creating something, and after paying for selling spaces, materials, we often get paid pennies an hour – if we even end up breaking even at all. Add to that the sometimes disconcerting negativity we can be confronted with from the public, something which often hurts in a way that is hard to describe because it touches a nerve of crippling insecurity, one which the vast majority of artists have, the one that whispers “what if I’m not good enough” and “what if everything I do is mediocre at best” and “when will they realize I have no idea what I’m doing”, and we can really start to wonder what it’s all about.
The thing is, feeling like this is just part of the creative process. I don’t believe there ever is a stage where we feel totally confident in what we are putting out, where the words of others will ever leave us completely unaffected, because we need uncertainty to create. The dissatisfaction towards our own work is what keeps us pushing the boundaries, trying something new, and getting better at it.
But there’s also another part of the equation which is that the growth of art is associated with personal growth. And since art is very often something that we produce alone, sometimes this personal growth can get bogged down by hours and days and weeks of being trapped alone in our basement making art. Getting out there, mingling with strangers, and exposing ourselves to the reactions and opinions of others is a great way to cultivate the wide range of emotions we need to feel in order to continue growing as people and making good art. I also firmly believe that intense emotions, which are negative as often as not (and by this I mean that in order to feel intense positive emotions one must have been equally far to the other side of the spectrum,) are what we have which is most precious to give to others, to truly make them feel like they are not alone, no matter how we choose to express these emotions through our art.
Finally, making art is a calling. It’s something that the people who do it feel they must do, and correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve never known a single artist who was happier not making art than they were when they were, no matter how much they struggled with the act of creating. To me, this is really what it’s about: the deep, quiet joy of producing something that resonates with me, and the hope that it’ll resonate with just one other person in the world.