Each industry has its own lot of the egotistical and arrogant, able enough to irk the tolerance out of you and block your chakras for a lifetime. There are plenty asshole fishers, douchebag manufacturers, vexatious teachers and IT guys who are turds. But of all the industries, it seems creatives and more so artists, not only duel with their gassed-up egos, but also have to come up against extreme bouts of low self-esteem.
John Lennon eloquently described this in a quote saying “Part of me suspects that I’m a loser, and the other part of me thinks I’m God Almighty.” Self-centered individuals in other industries, bar sports personalities, wouldn’t ordinarily have this sorta conundrum due to the nature of work they do. As significant as a farmer’s role is in society, I don’t imagine that my khakhi-wearing brothers and sisters receive unexpected DMs that extol their farm work. Outside of Farmer’s Weekly, the general public doesn’t care for that farmer except maybe when the media is covering a drought.
“…Authentic art is so serendipitous, that one should never pre-empt an audience’s reception, or at least dwell on it. Once it’s out there, it’s no longer yours really…”
It’s not impossible, but it must be hard to resist the thought of yourself as being the best thing since sliced bread when your song is the biggest in the country, or the planet. Or when a cancer survivor walks up to you to tell you that your album or the lyrics you wrote, propelled their fight against the diseases. The intensity of fame and adoration is unfathomable because, artists could be squatting in a shack one week and on the cover of magazines in the next. It’s the frightening power of attention, which often triggers or accelerates mental illness.
I suppose that intense attention is a result of the intimacy and vulnerability that creatives and artists put into their work. It’s often said that the best art comes from pain and angst, and an artist’s susceptibility makes their work more compelling.
Due to this unhealthy transaction artists find themselves with low confidence and people’s perception of their work begins to serve as an index of their self-worth. Authentic art is so serendipitous, that one should never pre-empt an audience’s reception, or at least dwell on it. Once it’s out there, it’s no longer yours really. It’s the old cliché, that artists and creatives should see themselves as conduits. Or to a degree, view art in the same manner artisans and other industries see their work.
But the rapid growth of reality television has given workers in other industries a taste of prominence. Reality TV ranges from pawn shops, home improvements to shows about cops. Now every single industry out there tries to eke out whatever “entertainment value” there is in their fields of work. There are medical doctors and judicial judges obsessing over their viewership.
But truly understanding what’s important in your life and having a realistic definition of success are sobering elements. Understanding that not ever visual artist will be celebrated like Jean Michel Basquiat or that you’ll be another Def Jam artist like Nasty C.
The importance of economic self-sufficiency is usually downplayed in the creative and art space because most people have that “one day I’m gonna make it” mentality which is more idealistic than it is practical. If you’re an artist paying your bills solely from your gigs and delighting in what you do, you should consider that a level of success regardless whether your cheque is signed in New York or in Tembisa.