This is probably the number one fear of any creative professional. After all, we are not creating necessities but luxuries for the most part. As much as our art enriches our life and the lives of others, it remains something that we (at least as consumers) could probably live without.
i also worry that at some point i’ll give up on making a living with art. i have this mental image of being 65 and having my grandkids find a crate in the attic with all my drawings in it. they’d be like “i didn’t know grandpa could draw. why is he working at Jiffy Lube?” ~kc7655 DeviantART Forums
When money is tight, luxuries such as purchasing books, music, tickets to performances, and artwork are often the first to go.
We’re not doctors, teachers, or even farmers–we don’t create or provide a service that people can’t live without. As artists, we are well aware of this fact which only seems to fuel our sense of self-doubt. At times we can’t help but feel well. . . expendable
What if no one wants to buy my work?
The cure for self-doubt is surprisingly not success. The world is filled with famous and successful artists, writers, and musicians that are still riddled with depression and feelings of self-doubt.
Unfortunately, for the majority of us, this is not something that ever completely goes away. Instead we have to find a way to live with this doubt and value the creative process as much as the work itself.
While it may be true that all the great themes in art and literature have already been done before a thousand times over, it’s always possible to bring something entirely new to the process.
Let’s face it, writers and artists have been borrowing from their creative ancestors since there has been a thing called art. Even Shakespeare borrowed almost all of his work from other writers, but in the end, there is little question that he made them distinctively his own.
“Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing.” ~Salvador Dali
Stop trying to constantly reinvent the wheel. Instead use it, learn from it, model it, and then create your own version of it. Don’t worry about being seen as an imitator. We have all learned our art from those who have come before us. Embrace it and create a version of it that is true for you.
“Art is a hobby and not a real job”
“I’m afraid that my friends and family will be disappointed in me”
The truth is that your career as an artist is only as serious as you take it. Do you work at it as your “job” or do you only work at it occasionally as your “hobby”? How much work do you really put into it daily? If you were your boss, would you pay yourself for the effort that you are currently making?
Having to deal with you friends and family (especially parents) can be particularly tough when it comes to them seeing you as a working artist. The bottom line however is that they will take you and your art as seriously as they see you taking it.
In other words, if they see you putting in 10-15 hours day after day working not only on your art, but marketing your art as well, they will begin to see you as a “working artist” rather than just their kid who does art.
One of the biggest fears that artists have when I ask about them selling their work online is that they are afraid that people are going to steal their work or their ideas. While there’s no doubt this does happen, far too many artists are using this as an excuse to stay out of the online marketplace all together.
Yes, people steal ideas all the time. You do it, I do it, and every artist under the sun has done it at some point (see #2). We look for ideas that speak to us and then we use them to spark our imagination. We’re not talking about these people, however, we’re talking about the real thieves who simply take stuff off the internet and pass it off as their own.
Although this is certainly a real problem, you also have to realize that these artistic parasites are a very small minority of the online population. 98% of the people looking at your work online have no intent of stealing your work, they are simply enjoying it and maybe, just maybe, they might be interested in buying it.
No artist is ever completely satified with their work. Some pieces you will always like better than others but the pursuit of perfection is only a mirage that keeps you from moving on.
“Art is never finished, only abandoned.” ~Leonardo da Vinci
At some point, however, you have to let it go and move on. You have to accept the fact that even the greatest authors, composers, musicians, and artists were still unsatisfied with their masterpieces in some way. Perfection is an illusion that will eventually consume you if you let it. Think of each piece that you create as a stepping stone on a much longer journey. You will never get to the next stage of development as an artist unless you are willing to set that piece aside and move on to the next.
Just let it go.
Live your art.
Image courtesy of SXC
Writer, teacher, and head custodian of the Skinny Artist community. His book "Getting Creative: Developing Creative Habits that Work" is all about finding the time (and energy) to live a more creative life.