The Artist’s Struggle

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I always feel a little bit anxious when I sit down to write.

Weird, right?

I mean, I’ve been writing consistently every week for three years. And it’s not even that big of a deal, you know? Most of our readers probably see this post, consider it for thirteen seconds, then move on and never think about it again.

Clearly, this is very low stakes.

So why am I still anxious?

Part of it, undoubtedly, is that I’ve got issues. I struggle with anxiety and I care way too much about what people think of me. So I’ve got those things going for me, which is nice.

But I also think this feeling is part of the human experience. More specifically, I think it’s par for the course of being an artist.

Artists face a strange kind of social pressure: to make something personal for other people.

Here’s what I mean…

On the one hand, art is only good if it captures real, human emotion. This means that the best creative works start with an intense inward focus; creators must be ruthlessly self-reflective.

But on the other hand, art is only good if it effectively communicates real emotion. This means that the best art also requires an extreme awareness of an external audience, plus a high degree of skill with whatever format you’re using to communicate.

There’s a word to describe this push-pull, internal-to-external act of creation: Vulnerability.

You can practice vulnerability, but you can never make it painless. It’s inherently risky. If it feels easy, it’s probably not vulnerability.

All of this is a roundabout way of stating the obvious: 

Really good art is really hard to make.

I don’t consider posts like this as pure art, for the record; it’s definitely marketing more than it is anything else. But it’s somewhat creative, and the internal-to-external process is similar. So I bump into some of the same challenges.

And I think that’s a large part of why it always makes me feel anxious.

I’m reaching the end of this line of thought, and as usual, I didn’t come prepared with a clear takeaway. Sorry.

But here are two final notes:

1. If making stuff makes you anxious, you’re not alone. Unless you’re a sociopath, putting something you’ve created into the world will probably always feel a little risky – even if you’ve done it 932 times before.

Because whether you’re writing deeply personal lyrics or making instrumental jazz music, you’re pouring time, effort, and heart into something that has a real risk of being being ridiculed, rejected, or even just ignored.

It’s human nature to feel a little bit of fear.

2. Making stuff helps you make peace. Vulnerability is weird this way; it’s frightening and it’s the only way to be really at rest.

When you create something, you come to know yourself better. And when other people connect with it, you get to know and be known by others.

Those are two of the best things you can experience as a human, and I think they’re also two prerequisites for peace.

Okay, that’s enough pretentious pseudo philosophy for today.

Talk soon. In the meantime, here’s wishing you good luck as you put art into the world. Even if it makes you feel a little anxious, it’s worth it.

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