At the core of art is vulnerability. Baring our souls allows us to create characters that feel alive and stories that hit audiences right in the heart. Unfortunately, the world is often cruel to artists and our courage is not always appreciated for what it is - and expression of our humanity. We are often judged by hypocrites who cast arrows from high places while ignoring their own shortcomings. The result of which can often be a loss of confidence as an artist, feelings of isolation and ultimately, the decision to quit the craft. Worse outcomes yet fall upon the less fortunate ones.
If you are feeling down and maybe a little lacking in confidence, I have good news for you: all artists feel this way sometimes. It just comes with the territory. There are ways to get out of it and start feeling better though, I assure you.
Firstly, don't quit. Here are three reasons why:
Your best work is yet to come
Anything worth doing is never easy
You love creating art
Now that you have decided to forge ahead, the next step is to regain your confidence.
I recommend the following steps to recovery:
Cultivate a spirit of gratitude
In can be hard to be grateful when we are depressed but it can hold the key to our survival.
Please try and go back to the beginning. Go back to day one. Remind yourself why you started down this path.
What truths about life were you looking to explore? What did you see down the road that drew you in? Have you not uncovered deeper understandings of life, love and wisdom in pursuit of it? What joy have you experienced along the way as you uncovered new and creative ways to express your art? Forget the others. Think of your own heart. Has it not been more fulfilling to create instead of consume?
Think about the people you've met. What great friendships have you formed? Who has helped you along the way? Who has believed in you when others didn't?
And where has your art taken you? To what places have you traveled in pursuit of your craft? Hasn't your perspective on the world widened? How wonderful has it been to discover locations and people beyond your own home, your own community, your own little world?
Reflect upon the positives you have been blessed with. You will begin to recognize that while you may feel down now, there have been many good days and you've met some incredible people along the way who are navigating their own artistic journey. Now imagine that it all disappeared. It never happened. You lived a life of an office drone. Or spent every night on the couch. Which path is better for your soul?
Recognize the value of failure
It's cliche but true: failure is the best teacher.
Babies don't come out of the womb walking and talking. No, they fall down again and again in their attempts to sit up, then crawl, then walk. How joyful do youngsters look when they finally take their first steps? Why do children enjoy the simple pleasure of running around? Because they no longer have to crawl. They have grown strong and are aware of their mastery over the physical world for the first time. In mastery, there is confidence and happiness.
Artists are no different. Early stage artists are like babies trying to sit up. They bear no resemblance to older siblings who are running around creating dazzling works of art. Our first works pale in comparison to what the world views as objectively good art. But they are beautiful works in that they are our first steps. They are our plaster footprints arranged on the Christmas tree as ornaments.
As we grow as artists, we fall and bruise ourselves, our egos, our relationships, our lives. We even bruise our souls. But we don't break them. We gain strength as we heal. Deeper understandings of the structures and techniques required to produce good work emerge through our failures. We understand what not to do before we understand what we ought to do.
Don't settle for walking when you are destined to run. Keep falling. Keep getting up. Or as the Japanese saying goes, "Fall down seven times, stand up eight".
There is a season for everything
Remember those silver linings your parents told you about? I believe they are real. If we're walking in the park and it begins to rain it doesn't necessarily mean the sky is falling. It might just be God's way of nourishing the grass we're walking on.
Think outside your artistic life for a second. Recall all the times something bad happened which actually led to something good. That test you failed that led to you meeting a study buddy who turned into a best friend. That day you were lost and ended up finding your new favourite restaurant. The girl who left you only so that you could meet and fall in love with your soulmate. The old bike that was stolen only so that you could get a new one for your birthday.
There are a million examples all around us that demonstrate the temporary nature of setbacks. It's the way of the world. We live in a giant recycling plant where bad is transformed into good. It just takes time to see it come to fruition.