The last couple of years, with the violent ups and downs as they’ve been, haven’t been the easiest. Long term unemployment, financial issues, near total lack of art sales (and no originals sold at all, let’s not forget that). When a creator goes through times like these, contemplation on the future is sure to happen.
Do I continue trying to get graphic design jobs, when a hundred resumes garnered no interest? Do I keep trying to create and sell original art, when no one even slightly considers buying one? Do I keep trying to get my art published, when I can’t get the time of day from publishers (save for those important, valued few)?
|Originally published by Apex Book Company, September 2012|
While confidence is always a question, especially after such a long drought, there’s a bigger question that needs asked first. That is, what do I really want from life? Or from the things I create?
It’s a question that all creators come around to eventually. The answers vary, of course, and many times it doesn’t come easy. Sometimes you can’t even truthfully answer the question, because not all of the cards have been dealt just yet.
Creators do their thing for various reasons, most of them unique to themselves. All of them need to ask themselves “why?” at some point. Before you can figure out if you want to go on, you have to figure out what you want from it.
Art can be a catharsis, or even an escape from the boundaries of the real world. Many creators start and end with that very idea, that their creations are for only themselves. They create because they need to pour their hearts and souls into the things they create, to let those bottled up dreams escape into something else. Even if no one else ever sees their work, those creators feel better off for letting it all out.
There are those creators that need almost a vindication from others, and want to show everything they do. They show the world their creations, and they need to hear that praise to make their souls complete. Many even like to hear, albeit subconsciously, the bad things that people say about their works. In the end, it’s still attention and recognition that they are getting, and it fills their soul with what they need.
Certainly, there are also those who need the creative arts to only be a source of money. It’s a job to them, and nothing more, and the constant projects they do merely support their families. It’s not that they don’t enjoy what they do, but they are less concerned with making an impact or getting it out of their system. It’s a job, it’s what they do, and it’s how they live their lives.
Many creators are looking for immortality as well. Immortality can fall under vindication, of course. But it’s more than that. The creators want to look back on their life and believe that they did something great. It could be a beloved art piece, it could even be just a bunch of sketches they are proud of, that no one ever saw. The point is, they view their creations as an accomplishment, something they can be proud of.
I’ll bet that most creators are like myself, in that I have a little bit of all of these things driving me. Some days, it can be one idea over the others. But, over time, all of these things impact who I am as an artist, and who I want to be as a person.
Confidence in what you are doing follows when all of these things are true. If you are happy with your works, people love them, and you are selling your wares well (if that’s your thing), then confidence can be very high. With high confidence comes more production, and more love with what you are doing. It becomes a circle, feeding good ideas and good thoughts all through your life.
The same, naturally, is also true of not getting these things. Confidence can be destroyed because you aren’t getting what you want out of your creations, and thus, out of life. While it can sometimes be hard to always keep confidence high, usually it still wins out. But on a bad streak, confidence can be crushed quite violently, and it can be very difficult to recover from it.
As I slowly return to the world of art, after a couple of very crushing years, I have to ask myself all of these questions and more. But above all, I have to decide what I want from it, and what I’m willing to endure to get it. Or if I’m willing to endure anything at all any longer.
As a creator, ask yourself: what do you want from your creations and your life?
Only you can know the answer. Only you can say what it’s worth and what it isn’t, if you win the day or if you fall. It’s a choice that’s yours and yours alone, make sure whatever call you make that it’s the best one for you.
There’s no shame in stepping aside, and letting go of your dreams. Especially if you tried hard, perhaps it’s time to set things aside and move on. It’s something I consider each and every day. These days, a lot more than I ever have before.
But if you decide that you really want it, that you’re willing to fight for it, do it. I leave you with a quote from one of my favorite films, and it really does put it perfectly.
“Get busy living…or get busy dying. That’s goddamn right.”