I can talk as much as I want about being kind and giving the benefit of the doubt to others – and I truly believe in being nice, conscientious, and accepting of others – to believe that they are, or can be, good people. But in order for any artist to be successful, he or she must believe in his or herself. If an artist doesn’t feel confident about what he or she wants to say to the audience, then he or she won’t be able to connect with the audience or convey his or her message to them. And, if an artist doesn’t feel good about his or her work, he or she won’t be able to get his or her work out there (side note: wow, that was a lot of his/her/he/she…). How do you sell something you aren’t even sure you believe in?
I have a lot of personal experience with this – the internal struggle, not so much the part about putting one’s work out there. I have very little experience with that part. When I write just because I want to write (I’m very carefully excluding writing for school, because for some of that I think this is true and for others not so much), I think I’m fine connecting with my “audience” – although I don’t know, because I’ve never really had an audience before. Unless you count a few close friends and my boyfriend (plus showing a random professor or friend something here or there) as enough people to be considered an audience. But as for feeling good about putting stuff out there… Well, I’ve gotten close, but close doesn’t get anybody anywhere. The thing is, I would put it out there if I could be completely anonymous. Or if I didn’t care so much about what people thought. Because I want feedback, I want to get better. And really, I only ever write little stuff, and not even a lot of it (well, it depends, I kind of go through periods of lots of writing and periods of not so much writing), so it’s not like I’d be giving someone a novel to read. But some of that stuff is so intensely personal, and even the stuff that isn’t still has a little bit of me in it – enough that anything someone says would really affect me. Because I care about all of that. And I’m sensitive in general anyway. Add on something that can be as personal as writing and those feelings just become magnified.
That’s why I’ve always really admired artists who put their work out there. Even if they aren’t articulate and can’t sing to save their lives and don’t draw any better than a kindergartener (no offense to any kindergarteners, it’s just that in only five years of life it’s hard to really build up a skill, though some people manage to…), they at least had the courage and faith in themselves to try. It might sound sappy, but to someone like me, that doesn’t seem like such a simple act – it seems daunting and scary and it means making oneself vulnerable. And I personally hate being vulnerable. Even just writing about BEING vulnerable freaks me out a bit – it’s too close to the real thing.
This isn’t a cry for help or a push or anything like that. I mean, sure, that might help, but I’m not asking for it. If I decide to put myself out there, then I have to do it on my own terms. It’s just a leap that I haven’t decided to take yet – I don’t know if opening myself up to that kind of vulnerability is worth getting better at poetry or whatever (to me, school is a different story, even though I do tend to write about personal things when the situation calls for it because I find it easier to write about something that one is already thinking about; but my point is that you can improve your writing in school without writing about personal things, like writing about literature, etc.). And, I mean, would you ever really hate hearing that someone feels you have potential? I wouldn’t. My point is that, if you’re feeling afraid or insecure or hesitant or anything along those lines about allowing people to see or hear your art – whether it is writing, drawing, singing, or whatever – you are not alone. And you might regret choosing to keep your art to yourself (I know I do sometimes; well, when I’m not being so self-deprecating that I don’t think what I write should even be considered in the realm of anything requiring a literary term), you really are just doing it for yourself anyway. Just do what makes you happy. But know it’s okay to be afraid and that you aren’t alone in feeling that way. Even if it’s just the two of us (although it probably is more than that), two is more than one. Draw strength from knowing that you aren’t alone and that it’s okay to feel that way, and most importantly, draw strength from the reasons you do your art in the first place.