In Place

medicine

I’ve spent so long feeling I am training to create greatness that I cannot countenance the idea that anything I’ve created might be good already, or to describe it as such. Every creation is a learning experience, it’s true, but every learning experience is also a creation, and creditable as such in its own right.

But the sad fact of the matter is that creating good work isn’t enough. You have to convince people that it’s good: Convincing people that it’s good starts with convincing yourself that it’s good. It’s a hard first step to take.

Listen: It’s not that I think there’s anything wrong with my work. I don’t think anything I create is bad – well, except when it obviously is, but that’s quite rare as I mostly just don’t put in the time to finish work like that in the first place. No, I just fail to believe that it’s good enough; good enough that I should be going around telling people to spend their precious time with it, much less spending their precious money on it; good enough to compete in a marketplace of ideas and creations that were each conceived and created by their own experienced artist.

I enjoy my own work. I enjoy creating it and, often, I enjoy consuming it: I like reading my old essays on here when I take the time to, I like listening to my music quite frequently on trips and while working on art, and I’m pretty sure that if I can ever finish a damn game I’ll enjoy playing it as well. But, you know, I consider myself a biased source. Maybe I made something good, but maybe it’s just narcissism. Do I want to try to market my work, knowing that risk? Do I feel confident enough that I’m selling something good, and not just my puffed up self-delusions?

Is this how all artists feel? Can they possibly be so confident in their own work to carry on despite that? Or does it just not occur to them? Do they just create and sell art, and feel confident in the audience’s ability to discern whether or not it’s worth their time?

Not only am I my own worst critic, I’m my own worst curator, distributor, and marketer.

There’s a lot of ways I can see this breaking. One, obviously, is that I give up. Doesn’t seem likely any time soon, but if I’m still in basically the same creative place in five or ten years, well… Yeah, let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. Another is that someone convinces me I’m good and that my work is worthwhile. I’m very difficult to convince in this regard; if someone tells me they like something I created, I immediately start concocting reasons why their viewpoint is biased in this particular or why obviously this one work is okay but doesn’t indicate anything about the quality of my work overall or, you know, whatever. Third, I could get really broke, and need to get a lot more aggressive about selling my work. This keeps happening by half-measures, and I keep getting broker and broker, but I seem to have a high smoking point for desperation and so far it hasn’t pushed me into being more aggressive about creating and selling art.

I’m grateful I’ve made it work so far. Three or four years now, I’ve lost track, basically self-employed, scraping by bit-by-bit; but I know I could be doing better. I know I need to be looking for places to take my work, rather than just leaving it here, hoping it comes to life. I never knew that the hardest part of art wasn’t figuring out how to make it, but figuring out where to put it. It’s been a difficult realization as, even as I spent years learning to create, I never learned how believe in my creations.

So: Now it’s time to learn.

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3 comments
  1. Sadly, this doesn’t get easier. Or, well, it does, but mostly because with time you gain fans who talk you up so you don’t have to do it yourself – but the part where you *do* have to do it yourself doesn’t get easier.

    Try pretending that your stuff is actually the stuff done by a good friend of yours who you think deserves more recognition than they’re getting.

    • I’m bad at that too! Maybe I should start practicing there. Though the problem I often run into with talking up other people’s work is that I generally can’t afford to support them directly so I feel like a hypocrite trying to tell people to buy something I didn’t buy myself. Or, again, I convince myself I’m way too biased about this thing my friend created and therefore I have to recuse myself.

      I rarely win arguments with myself.

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