Self-Image

A question that all artists struggle with – that I suppose nearly everyone does – is whether we’re actually any good at what we do. I always hoped when I was small that life would start making sense when I grew up, that becoming an adult would mean I’d know what I was supposed to be doing.

Turns out, none of us do. We’re all pretending to know what’s going on, but none of us really do. We’re all just going through the motions and hoping nobody else notices. This is partly why artists are so mysterious (or at least odd) – they’re NOT going through the motions. They’re doing strange, magical things (when they go right) or they’re just weirdos (when they don’t).

(I’m not sure there’s a difference. James Joyce spent years writing an unreadable book that sounds like a string of random and often made up words; somehow, “Finnegan’s Wake” is considered a work of great literature, while Stephen King’s “Misery” is not. There is no justice in art criticism.)

And that leads to a problem.

Are we actually good enough?

This is true for everyone, of course. New parents worry that their children aren’t developing like the books say they should be. New employees worry that they can’t meet their quotas. Do police worry that they aren’t catching enough criminals? Maybe some do. I know that newcomers to DIY worry that their paint jobs will look shoddy, or that flatpack cabinet is going to fall apart.

But art is different. At least with DIY or an office job, or even parenting, you have some idea of what the result is supposed to look like. When you’re creating something new, there’s no picture on the front of the box. You may not even know yourself what it’s meant to look like.

So… is it any good? How can you know? Your friends are no good. They’ll never tell you if they hate it, and they aren’t really qualified to tell you how to fix it if it’s not quite right. You can’t compare it to other art, because all art is different. You can’t ever know.

The best you can do is keep creating stuff for its own sake, and hope other people like it.

Still, it would be nice to know.

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