Confessions of a Self-Doubt-Ridden Artist

Hello world!

Or at least: hello you.

You probably know who I am. How else would you know about this blog? I’ve posted a link on Facebook and that’s about it for promotional effort (on the off chance that you don’t know me and kind of just stumbled upon this page: I’d love to hear how you got here! So go ahead, leave a comment. Please. Really.).

You might ask what this blog is or is supposed to be. It’ll be many things, hopefully – stay tuned – but for a start, it’s a sort of therapy couch for me. If you don’t want to be my counsellor that’s okay. I won’t be mad or judge you. If you rather see yourself as a patient that’s fine too – there’s a lot of room on this virtual couch and I can scooch over.

So. Let me start by stating my problem.

Okay. Here we go. Ready?

I’m an artist. A writer, to be precise.

Phew. That felt weird. But it’s out.

See, it’s a big deal to say that because I never felt like a writer. It’s a problem I’ve struggled with for quite some time. The entire point in coming to Saskatoon from Germany was that I hoped I could start my writing career here. The rationale was that a degree in Writing would do that. At the very least, it would validate my statement, right? It would lend legitimacy. Heck, I’d get a piece of paper that I could shove under people’s noses: “Look, I’m a writer, a verified artist! I’ve got the papers to prove it, look! LOOK!”

That was the theory.

For two years, I wrote poems, short stories, short non-fiction pieces, an article for Freelance magazine and countless notes and drafts that I either threw away or lost or got rid of in some other way. I started doing writer things, or what I assumed were writer things. I bought Writer’s Digest magazine. I read articles on writing and researched publishing opportunities. I subscribed to topical newsletters. I even tried to keep a journal (as always, unsuccessfully). Most importantly, I started sending out stories to magazines and anthologies. They all got rejected.

Ah, now here’s a deeper level of understanding. Let’s explore that a bit.

See, I can’t cope with rejection. On any level. I want to be liked. I assume that’s natural enough. But when somebody gives me the You’re-not-good-enough-treatment I take it personally. Worse, I believe them. I ask myself why I’m not good enough and what I need to change about myself. How can I become a version of myself that this other person will like?

And, there’s the other problem, too: I’m stubborn. Very stubborn. I can’t quit, won’t quit. Ever.

That mix of wanting to be liked and accepted and stubbornness isn’t healthy. It means you can’t let go. You constantly blame yourself. It’s a black hole and I tumble into it. Every. Single. Time.

Which is what also happened after I had defended my thesis. There I was, unpublished and out of ideas. Yet, I wouldn’t quit. I tried to be creative, to come up with new stuff, but creativity is like a bottle of ketchup (not the squeeze bottles but the old glass ones): the harder you try, the less you will get, and I was pounding the bottom of the fucking bottle until my hand was all bloody.

Also, I needed to apply for a new visa and start looking for a job. A REAL job. Like, a job in marketing or editing. But I wanted to get the stupid ketchup out of the bottle, too. Otherwise, I would have to admit that, like it or not, I wasn’t an artist. I wasn’t a real writer. I was just a guy who got a degree in Writing. Big fucking deal.

To give my bloody hand (and pounding brain) a break, I picked up a book I had bought about a year earlier for no apparent reason. It was The Art of Asking by singer-songwriter and all-around-artist Amanda Palmer.

I’m not here to promote the book. But if you ever struggle with similar craziness as I described above: READ THIS BOOK! You can borrow it from me (see, I told you it’s not a promotion). Just return it, please.

Anyway, there are a few things I understand now.

Rejection is okay. Reject my story, reject my application, reject me as a person. It’s okay if you do. All it means is that you’re not my audience. There are over seven billion people on this planet. I’ll move on.

If somebody wants to spend time with you or if somebody says they want to help you – believe them! Accept their offer! Hold on to them! Because, guess what: they’re your audience. They’re your friends (if you reached the equation of “audience = friends” then congratulations, you’ve understood the concept).

But most importantly:

YOU DON’T NEED ANY VALIDATION TO BE AN ARTIST!

Let’s say that again, because it feels so good.

YOU DON’T NEED ANY VALIDATION TO BE AN ARTIST!

I think we’ve had our first little breakthrough. Let’s call it a day. I’m off doing my thing for now, which is applying for jobs (I still need to make money, right?) and looking for a way to get the ketchup out of the damn bottle. If you want to stay on the couch a little longer, be my guest. It’s pretty comfy, eh? I’ll be back soon.

Oh, and before I forget it: thank you, my audience.