How to Be a Good Artist

“To be an artist you have to give up everything, including the desire to be a good artist.” – Jasper Johns

When I was seventeen years old, I kind of figured that I was better at writing than those around me. Had won a few competitions, and all my teachers were impressed by what I could write.

I wanted to be good. I wanted to be the best. I had the type of goals that one cannot utter out loud for fear of being locked away in a mental institution.

I liked to impress people, and then I would also impress myself.

I’d write short stories the day before a deadline. Soon, I became complacent. I thought that I was so good that I just had to stroll my fingers across a keyboard and magic would appear on my computer screen.

It did not work well.

As a matter of fact, I spent the next eight years without earning a dime from writing. A single dollar. Nothing. Nada. I kept writing though, but I did not give a damn about anything really.

The truth is that rebels hate their rebellion, hate the thing that makes them different. I just thought that I’d write and write and write and then I’d probably die. Poor, alone, sick, tired…

I actually convinced myself that no one liked me, no one cared about me, and that writing was the one thing that mattered. Yet, I was also convinced that my words only mattered to me. I was so afraid of rejection that I self-published my novels the moment I found out about Amazon’s KDP and Smashwords.

People don’t usually describe passion like this. The thing is, I wrote because that was the one thing I knew to do. Good or bad, it didn’t matter.

Being self-conscious about one’s art is not the best thing to do. No one cares what you think about the things you create. They don’t. They form an opinion based on their own tastes and whatnot, but they do not care what is your favorite of your novels, or how much you adore this or that painting of yours.

Nothing really matters. Not your opinion, not theirs. All that matters is being able to create. The act of creation is the magic, is the answer, is what you should focus on.

Being so immersed in the art you’re creating that the world fades away. There’s nothing else but you and your art. You and what you’re building. You are creating something out of nothing, using nothing but will power.

Nothing else matters.


4 thoughts on “How to Be a Good Artist

  1. Interesting read. I would say that it is hard to not be our worst critics. As artist, we take great ownership of our work be it: painting, writing, acting, etc. However, I do agree that “The act of creation is the magic”.

  2. I would agree with almost every part of this post, but somehow, in the last paragraph, I realize the dichotomy of the art and the artist remained. However, even you may check your experience that the art, the artist, the artisting (the process of creation of art by the artist), they all become one.
    If I were given a chance I would delete one word in the Jasper Johns’ quote i.e. ‘Good’. To create art, good or bad is immaterial, the artist has to forget himself.

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