What to do When You Think You Suck

“So the Dark did a simple thing. They showed the maker of the sword his own uncertainty and fear. Fear of having done the wrong thing–fear that having done this one great thing, he would never again be able to accomplish anything of great worth–fear of age, of insufficiency, of unmet promise. All such great fears, that are the doom of people given the gift of making, and lie always somewhere in their minds.” 

Susan Cooper, in her incredible, award winning series The Dark is Rising, writes this particularly insightful passage. I can’t think of a better way to describe the fear and anxiety of being an artist. I could say so much about this feeling, as I’m sure anybody who’s ever created something could. However, I’ll leave it at this: It’s okay to have this feeling. It’s not okay to be consumed by it. One more quote, this one from Neil Gaiman:

When things get tough, this is what you should do: Make good art. I’m serious. Husband runs off with a politician — make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by a mutated boa constrictor — make good art. IRS on your trail — make good art. Cat exploded — make good art. Someone on the Internet thinks what you’re doing is stupid or evil or it’s all been done before — make good art. Probably things will work out somehow, eventually time will take the sting away, and that doesn’t even matter. Do what only you can do best: Make good art. Make it on the bad days, make it on the good days, too.”

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6 responses to “What to do When You Think You Suck

  1. Thank you for sharing these thoughts. True and worth reminding ourselves- even if our art is more homely and less artful. Smiles!!!

    • I think the important thing to remember is that art is firstly about the artist. Even if it’s homely and not very “artistic” it’s still important.

      • I always thought just the opposite- that art was created for the beholder… meaning, one other than the creator.
        But we could get into semantics…. art is valuable and cannot be created, homely or artistcal (new word I made up).. if the creator is focusing on the observer rather than on the art. Hm?

      • That is true. This could get into a very long and messy discussion. I agree that art is, in the end, designed for the beholder, but I suppose that I would call the artist the first beholder. Another way of saying that is that the artist should appreciate the art in the first place, even if the intention is for others to see and appreciate it as well. I would apply your comment, “art is valuable and cannot be created . . . if the creator is focusing on the observer rather than on the art,” to writing by saying the first draft is for the artist/author (that is, focused on the art) and revision is for the observer (focused on the observer after the foundation of the art is already intact).

  2. I especially like the Neil Gaiman quote. Thanks for sharing!

    • It’s from a longer speech of his that was also turned into a book. It’s called “Make Good Art,” and I’m pretty sure you can find the whole text or video of the speech online. It’s a very good one. Glad you like it.

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