Feeling insecure isn’t limited to artists but how come we’re more affected by this soul-crunching cloud of self-doubt more than say, lawyers or doctors?
Well, let’s blame society for not giving value to artists who are still trying to make it. If you’re not yet as successful as Kubrick or Bob Dylan, they would think you’re simply wasting your time. They would start looking at you with pitiful eyes. Some might be relieved that they didn’t take the artist’s path like you did. And when you take a look at your bank account at the time you feel awful about yourself, you will start questioning your life decisions. Why did you do this in the first place? Why didn’t you become a lawyer? And it will spiral down to an endless pit of self-loathing.
If you’re in a phase where you start to doubt your art and your choice to be an artist, here are some things you should do:
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#1 Have some distance
Think of something else other than your art. Indulge in a new hobby or take a long stroll…at least for one day. Take yourself away from your art and stop thinking about it. Maybe you’re just burned out and all you need to do is breathe.
#2 This is not your last project
If you really think your art sucks, try to condition yourself that this is not your last work. You will still learn a lot, do a lot, and experience a lot. This is just part of your process. You still have a decade or two or three (a lifetime!) of art-making.
#3 Look at bad art
Take a look at the Museum of Bad Art, for example. Don’t do this to comfort yourself that you’re better than them but get inspired at how they don’t take themselves too seriously, and that’s okay for you, too!
#4 Look at the other things you have other than art
Don’t roll your eyes. This could actually be helpful so you won’t be down in the dumps. You have a cute dog, you have a roof above your head, the sun in shining brightly. Sometimes we forget. Art should make you appreciate life. If you’re too caught up with your career, then it’s time to step back a little and ask yourself why you’re making art.
#5 Sulk but give yourself a time limit
Cry if you must. It’s the most therapeutic thing to do when you’re really emotionally down. You have to reach the bottom so you can kick your way up.
#6 Search for the lesson
If you’ve recharged, done some yoga, yet you come back to your art and still feel the same way about it, then ask yourself why you really don’t like it. Stare at it directly, don’t bat an eyelash, and tell yourself as honestly as you can why you don’t like it. You can do it. You’re not made of soft stuff. And once you accept the things you hate about it, it has served its purpose. But please, don’t throw it away! Set it aside and come back to it some other day.
James Hill is a veteran of the music industry. He first worked at Warner Reprise Records then later joined Interscope/ Geffen Records where he managed producers and songwriters and got his first platinum record for Keyshia Cole’s The Way It Is. He is now helping indie artists with branding and manufacturing through his company Unified Manufacturing, a CD/DVD/vinyl and merch company in LA.