Leveling Up Your Artistic Identity – Episode V: Know Thyself

- Posted January 7th, 2020 by

Generally speaking, the most measurable and gratifying progress will surface when focusing on specific, actionable tasks. The less nebulous your goals, the more feasibly they can be achieved. That being said, it can sometimes be necessary to grapple with less tangible concepts. Amidst the throes of artistic development, it’s not uncommon to encounter feelings of self-doubt, inspirational drought, and mental fatigue. If this sounds familiar, some well-deserved ‘me time’ may be long overdue. While many of us might hesitate to pump the brakes for some healthy introspection, a quick self-diagnostic will help to keep your spirits high and your mind sharp.

As artists, it seems we’re particularly susceptible to what’s known as imposter syndrome. By loose definition, this phenomenon is characterized by a persistent fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud’ due to a deep psychological doubt of one’s own accomplishments. It can be very isolating to feel inadequate. It is a feeling which afflicts more of us than you may realize. In fact, a quick jaunt through cyberspace will reveal that 70% of people will experience imposterism at least once during their lives. You are most certainly not alone. However, it’s time to make a decided effort to put those hypercritical tendencies to rest. While you can’t necessarily switch your worries off like a light switch, you can repeat the following mantra:

I know things!

Remind yourself of this daily. Take solace in the fact that you have accumulated a wealth of knowledge and experience throughout your life. Furthermore, a host of learning opportunities await you!

During the last episode, we briefly touched on the subject of humility. To quote a particularly relevant excerpt:

‘One of the worst things you can do is pretend that your project has no weaknesses.

In much the same vein, embracing your own weaknesses as a creator will help you to better navigate the minefield of self-discovery. We all have a unique skill set. Recognizing where yours begins and ends is paramount. Of course, this isn’t to say that you can’t work to broaden your abilities. There is something to be said, however, for maintaining a sense of transparency with yourself. For example, a song that you have written might call for saxophone even though that instrument is not one of your proficiencies. Instead of omitting the saxophone from your arrangement, get a session musician to perform the part. Another (perhaps more common) example is mastering. There’s no shame in working with a mastering engineer if you lack the equipment, acoustic environment, and/or critical listening skills. In short: don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Listen to the informed responses and ignore the subjective ones.

There’s a difficult tightrope that all of us must walk as creators. It’s obviously important to have a vision for your work and to stand by your ideas. On the other hand, recognizing that there’s always room for improvement means you need to leave room for flexibility. That leniency often begins by accepting that you’re not perfect—by embracing your weaknesses. As you share your work, remember that most critiques are not meant as personal attacks. If the feedback is valid, incorporate it! If not, observe the feedback with grace… and a grain of salt. Not all feedback is helpful—even when offered sincerely. There will always be individuals who pride themselves on their opinions. This doesn’t mean that their perspective is definitive. Listen to the informed responses and ignore the subjective ones.

Your peers will often have their own ideas about your work. Similarly, you probably have an idea of how you’d like people to engage your work. As you refine your artistic voice, your work will articulate those intentions in a more sophisticated manner. And while a very valid argument could be made for the relevance of an artist’s intentions, there is a point where your intent becomes irrelevant. As such, your audience should be able to engage with your work—with or without your input. Your art is a powerful organism. Trust that you have nurtured it to the best of your ability. Let your work speak for itself.

That’s all for this episode of Leveling Up Your Artistic Identity. Next month, we’ll talk about your fans, where to find them, and how to stay involved with them. As always, if you have any questions about this article and want to discuss things in greater detail, leave a comment below or join the conversation on Discord!

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