It’s been three years since I started this thing. This business, this art, this part of my life. Whatever it is. It doesn’t seem like a long time, but also, it does. I’m feeling a bit “Wtf do I think I’m doing?”.
I mean, how many people actually make a sustainable living making art? Way more talented people than me are not, in fact, making a sustainable living at it, so what makes me think I can? That question keeps popping up on me lately, from the sticky depths of my brain meatz.
You’d think it wouldn’t, because I did better this year than last year by almost double. That is not small potatoes. I have had so many validating things happen this season, too. So much positive reinforcement. The kinds of compliments that mean something on a professional level. Big sales, artists I admire wanting to trade. Which I will probably never stop being all, “For realz??” when that happens. But also the support of people who just believe in me and are are like, “Go! Do the thing!”, or my broke ass friends budgeting their tiny budgets for my stuff. That’s every bit as important as big sales. That’s huge.
You’d think it wouldn’t, because I’m like, a dynamo of “fuck it”. Flinging myself into a life I had no training for just because I was out of ideas and desperately needed something to do with myself is not a new thing for me. This is how I ended up a rennie leather worker. I’d never even been camping before I buggered off to go live without plumbing or electricity for an entire decade. If it looks good, I rarely pause to wonder if I can or should do it. I just kind of go. And I do that because I grew up a shy, awkward wee lass who never had adventures, but who decided she wanted to be Stevie Nicks if Stevie Nicks was also a pirate when she grew up. I’ve made some astonishingly bad choices because of this, but I’ve also had a pretty interesting life.
Really, I’m just as freaked out as anybody. I just try not to let it get in my way. I might not be if I were 20, but at 40, most of my cohort is at least able to pay their own rent. I have been at various points, but I suck so bad at sublimating it’s comical (Unless you’re the guy that fired me after I threatened to stab him in the head with a fork. True story. He totally deserved it.). I get fired like it’s an Olympic sport and I’m bringing home the gold for America. It’s not that I don’t like to work. Oh so au contraire. I go crazy cakes when I’m not busy. Happiest time of my life was as the aforementioned rennie leather worker with a ten hour work day and a six day work week. It’s just that if I can’t get passionate about it, or if the boss/coworkers are douche canoes, I lose whatever scant filter I have in place. I have a bullshit threshold of about two, and you need at least an eleven to get by in most jobs. So pretty much I’m the best boss of me out there.
I read somewhere that a lot of the most successful musicians, artists, and entrepreneurs claim they succeeded simply because they had no plan B. Which makes a certain amount of sense. If you have but one basket, you’re really committed to making sure that basket will hold all those eggs. People say “nay” a lot when you’ve got some cockamamie notion like you wanna start a band or make a computer and a cell phone have babies. I wonder how many people tried to talk them back into their day jobs. The negative stuff sticks with you far longer than anything else, and it’s hard not to let that turn into an ongoing question about whether or not you’re cut out for whatever thing. When I first started doing this, for the most part everyone was really supportive. But there was one person who told me what I did wasn’t art. This is not unusual. People will tell you that. It’s not art, it’s not this or that thing that they think defines art. And that sucked, because I thought highly of their opinion. And for a hot second I let that slow me down. Eventually I got over that nonsense, and it taught me a valuable skill set insofar as ignoring criticism that isn’t constructive goes. It’s really easy to say, “This isn’t art.” but it’s not useful. It’s an opinion, and opinions vary widely on the subject. You wanna add to my skill set or correct my execution, I welcome it. But that’s the difference between useful criticism and opinion.
That moment sticks with me, though I don’t believe it’s true anymore. I believe that nobody gets to say what is and isn’t art, because art is so personal. My position, in a nutshell; if you think it’s art, it’s art. If you show it to the world and they love it, it’s art. If you show it to the world and they hate it, it’s art. If you lock it in a closet, set it on fire, only show it to your cat, or seal it up in a wall for future generations to find, it’s art. If you went to school for it, it’s art. If you taught yourself from YouTube videos, trial and error, or you didn’t teach yourself at all because you think the only true art is unconscious expression with no direction, it’s. Still. Art. If it’s amazing, it’s art. If it’s horrible, IT’S STILL FREAKIN’ ART. If anything that sayer of nay propelled me forward because, well, because I’m extremely ornery.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t have moments of “Wtf do I think I’m doing?”. Like now. There’s that voice in my head that’s yelling “Impostor! They will figure out you’re faking it!”. It happens. But part of my process, and hopefully a useful part for other people who want to feel a little less insecure about their own feelings of insecurity, is just discussing what we all go through when setting off on an uncertain path with potentially no future as these things are reckoned, just because we had some idea that it could be awesome, and what happens when you’re not sure yet if it’s going to be. Because it helps, I think, to know that everyone feels this way. Even people who went to school and got good marks and everyone tells them they’re awesome at a thing, sometimes get impostored by their own brains. So it’s not just those of us who decide we’re going to figure it out as we go.
So relax, I’m saying. To you and me both. Wtf do I think I’m doing? I have no freakin’ idea. What an adventure. I like to think Pirate Stevie would approve.