Philosophy of art has been an interest of mine for quite some time.
But philosophy of professional art is a topic I’ve only been exploring for the past several years.
There is no objective “right” or “wrong” when it comes to art.
Unlike an accountant completing the math equation 2 + 2 = 4 (certainly correct), an artist does not know how the public will receive their innovative equation (ugly? beautiful?).
And that uncertainty naturally affects a human being’s confidence and self-worth in business.
What’s more maddening is that for every person who calls an artistic creation “ugly,” there’s another person who will call it “beautiful.” For every person who says a concept is “stupid,” there’s another who will perceive it as “groundbreaking.” For every person who is “bored,” there’s another who is “entertained.”
You have to be comfortable getting paid for work someone will inevitably dislike.
That is the nature of professional art, and that is the nature of creative business.
Will the “real artist” please stand up?
- It’s the feeling that we’re not good enough.
- It’s the feeling that someone else knows what they’re doing.
- It’s the feeling that criticism is just too painful.
But the person who we think isn’t an impostor — the person who is good enough, knows what they’re doing, and doesn’t mind criticism — is also sometimes paralyzed by their own potential shortcomings and looking to someone else as “the real deal.”
The root of impostor syndrome in creative business is the false belief that your art is not worth money because someone might not like it. And the quality that separates a recreational artist from a professional artist is that the professional feels worthy of getting paid for subjective work.
They know their creations are not going to please everyone — and they know they deserve to be paid anyway, simply because of their high level of thought and care for their work.
So, let’s tap into two steps professional artists must practice to achieve that state of confidence.
Step #1: Trust that the people who don’t like your work don’t matter
I don’t know if we ever fully achieve this step.
But it’s something we must try to understand every day.
Deepening your appreciation of the people who do matter helps you refocus your energy in a productive way.
Because, ultimately, fixating on criticism doesn’t grow your audience or your business.
Only the momentum you get from doing great work does that, which leads us to …
Step #2: Embrace the value you produce
When you get clear on the values-driven why that motivates you, you’d rather make progress than get wrapped up in your own self-doubt.
I publish articles on Copyblogger every week, and many people might not like them. If I focused on that possibility, it’d be pretty hard to be a prolific writer.
Instead, I focus on the possibility of helping other creative people do meaningful work they love. One paragraph at a time. One sentence at a time. One word at a time.
Over to you …
Has impostor syndrome ever held you back?
What challenges have you overcome to feel worthy of getting paid for creative work?
I’d love to hear about how you might use these two steps to start a new project (or finish an old one) in 2019.
Let us know in the comments below.