Monday, October 27, 2014

Who does your art matter to?

The Man in the Arena


It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly...
-Theodore Roosevelt, from Brenẽ Brown's Daring Greatly

Today is a day of new beginnings. New beginnings for this blog, and new beginnings for my own art. Its not because the video below inspired me. Its not because I had some sort of grand epiphany. Its not because I haven't been working hard. It is because I am done listening to my mother's voice in my head.

Years and years ago I used to draw. I knew tons of people who thought my art was pretty good, and I wanted to pursue my art and make it into something better than what it was. So I shared my art with people close to me, particularly my mother. And the funny thing is, at first she loved it. A piece of my art still sits on a shelf at her home. However years later, I drew what at the time was my greatest "masterpiece" and I gave that to her. Many of the characters I write about today were etched into that art, and it meant everything to me.

But she was a different person at this time, bad things had happened to her that had changed her from my strongest supporter to my worst critic. One day in a rage about something I did as a teenager she tore it off the wall and tore it –piece by piece– in front of me. It is one of the few times I can remember crying in my life. It was that day that I stopped drawing. And that was the day that a voice was born in my head that cuts down all that I create.

Brenẽ Brown, speaker in The Power of Vulnerability
Now I've put up a good fight against that voice for several years now. I've tried to make it small, to only listen to the pertinent bits of what it says. I've invited it to my arena and given it a seat to watch as it deals more horrific blows to my art than my own critique process. And though over the years I've gotten better in many respects as how to deal with it, I never understood the problem was the fact that I invited someone to my arena who should never have been there. If I am not entirely clear in the video below (that I recommend you watch) Brenẽ Brown speaks specifically about those you should invite to be in your arena.


As I watched this video I realized I need to make some changes in my life. I have been studying various things of late in order to come to a better place of peace within myself, but I feel turmoil each time I sit down to write. And I hadn't realized the source of that turmoil until today. Thus I share with you some of my resolutions for myself in hopes it may help you to become a better artist.

Resolution One: I am only taking critique and criticism from those who are in the arena with me. If you are going to get your ass kicked, its best to know those doing the ass kicking and what their motives are. Why pay attention to the folks who aren't engaged in the work and therefore have no idea how difficult it is or where you could be giving more. If you create YouTube videos you could read all the comments from people insulting you or you could pay attention to those who are focused on your success and how they would love to help you there. One of those is an ass kicking without meaning, the other makes you stronger.

Resolution Two: The muse only visits the consistent. To this end I plan on stepping into the arena on a regular basis. You don't become a better fighter (or artist) in the arena by watching others fight, or by just talking about the techniques of others. You become a better artist by creating work. A body of work will be both the best of what you can create and the worst, but when you display that before others it will only be the best you are capable at the time. Only those willing to fail are able to build the skills that will offer them a chance at success.

Resolution Three: I am done spending time in the arena hurling insults. It's time to be accountable for what I say and do. We can't expect to not get our own asses kicked in the arena if we are spending our time hurting others in the arena. I will help others I see to make their art better, to find the positive about what they have created and encourage them. Despite even the worst work, there is always something they are doing right. Celebrating that while showing them how to create better work, is only a step on the road to doing it well yourself.

Though these things are easier said than done, I have faith that I can enact positive change in my life and in the lives of those around me. To answer the question that opens this blog, my art matters to me. And I need to act like it instead of acting like it matters to all the people who would see me remain small and unworthy of their notice. I hope you do the same with your own art.
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