This has really been one of my hardest learned lessons after a lifetime working in the creative industries. As artists we can feel really shitty about ourselves and work when it’s not flying off the shelves, packing out theatres or revered by oceans of raving fans. This is amplified if we’re spending a certain amount of time comparing ourselves to other people (usually on social media!) who appear to be killing it on all fronts.
My biggest heartbreak working in the arts is when I meet someone who used to be a creator but feels there is no longer a reason to continue as it “isn’t going anywhere”. So many people feel there’s no point in being prolific if it doesn’t have a financial end game. It can feel that unless you’re making six figures or trending on Facebook there’s reason to put your creative work out there. That bringing to life new creations – whether that’s artwork, music, stories or scrapbooking – is of no inherent value. To me, this is a flawed logic.
If this is you I really do know how you feel. I’m an almost (and by almost I mean in a few weeks) 40-year-old woman. I’m an original singer/songwriter. I don’t do covers and don’t intend to. I also don’t really play country music. The odds of me cracking it big time are pretty low. I have 2 – 5 children who I’m really committed to being there for. Together with my partner we run a number of other businesses, including this one, to bring in cash for my family. I don’t look like a super model and thanks to childrearing and an epic sleep deficit I look my age. And I just couldn’t bear to be away from my kids long enough to get on the road touring or auditioning for the X factor! But does that mean I should throw it all in?
Hells no! In fact, I just recorded a new 5 track EP and, in the past couple of weeks, I’ve written three new songs to add to the hundred plus in circulation. As a band we get out there and gig as often as we’re able, which, with a collective 15 kids, 6 day jobs, 3 side projects and relationships to maintain isn’t that often! But we put it out there in the world. The reason I continue to do this is because I can’t not. I don’t know where the songs come from but I do know that if I don’t bring them to life there’s some part of me isn’t living to the fullest. If we’re not living then we’re dying. And I sure as shit don’t want to be dying if all it takes to be living is putting my creativity out in the world.
So, that’s point one. If you’re not living, you’re dying.
Point two – the ripple effect.
As artists we just really don’t know how our creativity is impacting on people. When my band plays a gig, the truth is, it’s rare that we sell many CDs and often, our tip jar is depressingly low-tide. On nights like that I can question why I bother sharing what I do, the time it takes and the vulnerablity it brings. But I choose to keep going, because on some level, I believe that I have a calling to create and share with the world. Just as I have a calling to support other people to create and share what they do with the world regardless of their “success”. And as much as I can be a bit of a know all, one thing I really don’t know is what ripple effect that causes.
How do I know that a song I’ve sung hasn’t lulled a baby to sleep who hasn’t slept for that parent in weeks? How do I know that being on stage doing my thing against reason hasn’t inspired someone else to go forth and do their thing? How do I know that a lyric that I’ve written doesn’t connect with just one person, flowing on to create change in their life and consequently others they connect with? I don’t know. I only have to go back through history to know that there are plenty of creators out there who did not reap rewards financially or gain fame from the public while they were alive. But do we wish Van Gogh never painted Starry Night? Hell no!
So, my friends, please stop giving yourself a hard time or trying to over justify your creativity, because it’s part of who you are and who knows who you will affect.