Life Updates and How Not To Give Up as an Artist
I’ve been pondering my path a lot lately and where I fit in in the world, not only externally, but internally as well.
The past few years – being as strange as they’ve been – left a lot of scars and questions. Some of them are still left unanswered, some are clearer than ever. I’ve prioritized and re-prioritized my commitment to my craft and came to terms with the fact that the world has permanently changed – and with it, its values as well.
I also realized something important – that if you’re not well rooted in yourself, the world will chew you and spit you out very quickly. We live in a ultra-competitive and merciless society these days, but of course, as always, there is a choice to play by the rules or to opt-out.
Even though I started my journey as an artist many years ago, I still don’t feel like “I made it” and that concept in and of itself is so subjective. What does it even mean to “make it” as an artist? I guess it’s a question that each person must answer for themselves, because for some it might mean fame, for others large sums of money, for others a certain body of work or accolades. To me personally it means purpose. None of these answers are “right” or “wrong” – they’re only a matter of importance for each individual.
And this leads me to the next point: in a world more and more obsessed with celebrity, stats, and money, how do we find what is true for us and our true artistic path?
I think the first step would be to cut out distractions.
Even though the first few times (over the last two years) my social media accounts got suspended, or I got hit with the notorious “shadow ban”, or the metaphorically called “SM jail”, were a bit disheartening and confusing, I saw this as an opportunity to disconnect and to evaluate my priorities.
I reached the conclusion that maybe this has been a blessing in disguise because I was putting so much time, effort, and energy into creating beautiful and engaging content for absolutely free, for platforms that in the end didn’t truly care about “me”, as a creator, as a professional, as an individual, in the end… as a human being.
Thinking logically – I understand it’s nothing personal, only an algorithm, but then why shall I continue to use a tool that has implemented rules that blatantly discriminate against people for no reason or warning?
Of course, I also had to sit with the uncomfortable reality that I was becoming more and more addicted to my phone, and while I still have this immense joy and passion for taking photos, creating dreamy worlds, or storytelling through videos and multimedia, the pressure to constantly come up with concepts and creations was burning me out and leading me to a deeper and deeper feeling of depression and meaninglessness.
In the beginning of the social media era (and I’m talking wayyyyy back to MySpace and mIRC time) I used to love the concept because it allowed me to create freely and to share my artistry with people I wouldn’t have had the chance to connect with otherwise. I formed friendships that stayed with me to this day, and it was all about connection, building cool things, and sharing common interests.
The internet was more anonymous but paradoxically, it was more trustworthy. Now we can track, identify, and have instant access to anyone, yet… it feels more empty and disconnected than ever.
Yes, platforms, trends, even people, come and go… but in the end what we create will always remain with us, and within us. Transition might be painful in the moment, but in the end the focus must always be in doing your own thing, carving your own unique path, and creating the type of art that is right to you as a person. Your art might not get recognized, you might not be welcomed with open arms – heck you might even get flat out rejected a million times – but when you look back what do you want to see?
Of course, compromise and change are necessary in every field, and healthy compromise leads to improved projects, better skills, deeper compassion, a more open view of the world. But in the end, the compromise must be worth it. I think that’s how you “know”. When it feels that all the wrong turns, and all the delays, and all the obstacles, and all the changes, have lead to something meaningful. When you look back at all the thousands of hours poured into your art (perhaps anything for that matter) and you can feel peace and contentment. When you can sincerely say with a hand on your heart, “it wasn’t easy, but it was worth it because it lead me to this point of greater alignment with my vision”.
After all, the most vital and eye-opening question I ever asked myself was "who are you truly doing this for"?
I wish something would have prepared me in the past for the incredible amount of times when I heard that I should just give up what I do and follow a more traditional or “normal” career path. From the very beginning of my life I felt that for whatever unknown reason I’m not quite “right“. And of course I almost took that advice and gave up a bunch of times. It’s ok to take a break and come back with a new spark and zest for what you’re doing. It’s ok to question things and to listen to your doubts. It’s ok to be misunderstood for a while. Not everyone will like you or your art, or agree with your choices. But that’s fine because life goes on, either you give up or you decide to keep going. You must do this for you…
Also who gets to decide what you should create?
After studying the lives of so many musicians, painters, writers, and creative people of all sorts, I realized that the majority were faced with opposition from their peers during their lifetimes. Of course, the most hurtful is when the ones closest to us offer us doubts instead of support, but unfortunately it happens more often than not. I’m not saying this to victimize myself or to ask for pity in any way, shape, or form, but the majority of times, the people who mattered the most in my life were also the source of the deepest pain.
I think keeping a healthy balance between people’s opinions (especially if it’s constructive criticism) and your own internal compass is very important to keep you going and focused. I’m sure a lot of it is well-intentioned – but at the end of the day only you can tell what you feel and what’s right for you as an artist. What is important to you as a person? Creativity gets stifled by rigid rules, styles, or routines, and I think sometimes we, as humans, tend to forget that life doesn’t come with a manual and we’re all only trying to figure it out as best as we can, as we go. I don’t hold all the answers, and neither is anyone, really – regardless of how sure they might seem.
If you think about it, if people would’ve always followed the paths of those before them or the “trends” of the times, then today we wouldn’t have a Picasso, a Dali, an Anne Frank, a Van Gogh and so on…
Doing what you love and being an artist is not a bullet-proof armor against unhappiness.
Even when you do find yourself successful in your craft, this doesn’t mean you’ll be happy forever and no negative feelings will ever happen in your life.
As a matter of fact, I think having negative feelings can lead to a more tolerant and wholesome approach to life. Can we even be truly empathetic until we feel another’s suffering as real and visceral as our own? It’s important to have the critical skills to be able to asses when a project is failing, when we’re on the right path, or when something simply isn’t working for us. Even though I don’t subscribe to the philosophy of “you have to suffer for your art”, sometimes challenges can be beneficial. Every time I solve a creative problem, I always feel a sense of satisfaction and increased trust.
Negative feelings can also teach one patience.
Every day I’m in awe at the amount of impatience and demands people have nowadays. Everything is urgent, everything must be done yesterday if possible, and results must be seen instantly.
I love things moving fast and getting stuff done, but also I recognize that the process of creating something – especially when we’re talking something of value – is not always an overnight process, or even a straightforward line. From the outside it might seem like everyone is on a productive streak, but without balance, this productivity will lead straight into burnout. It’s ok to be thoughtful. It’s ok to take more time. Creativity is not a factory assembly line.
When things feel hopeless...
Now all that being said… Being on a creative path is a life-long commitment, and the more I live, the more I realize that it requires a lot of dedication and re-adjustment along the time. Also, it’s not a “one size fits all” – and it’s very easy to forget this at times.
Sometimes it means squeezing it between other things, sometimes it means putting it on the back burner for a few months, sometimes it means relocating to a better location, sometimes it means prioritizing it over more pleasurable tasks… and so on.
If I could reach out and help one artist today, it would be to inspire them not to give up, because I wish I had someone tell me this in the past when I was younger and felt lost.
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