How to Be a True Artist

Last week I found out an article I wrote about someone who means the world to me will be featured in the June 2016 issue of Bella Grace Magazine. To say I’m thrilled is a huge understatement! Bella Grace is one of my favorite magazines but what makes this even more meaningful is who the article is written about. I haven’t been able to share the good news with her yet, but I can’t wait. She will be overcome, I just know it. And I can’t wait for you to read it, too!

But truthfully? I’m also a little nervous for you to read it. I have been published before, so it’s not the newness of it that scares me. In the days leading up to the Naptime Diaries Advent Devotional being released last year, I found myself in a heap of tears on the floor, flat out in the middle of a panic attack. I wondered why in the world I put my writing out into the world and wished more than anything I could take it back. But this time, I couldn’t chicken out. It was out of my hands.

A few weeks later, I saw something amazing. I saw women Bible Journaling using the words God had given me. I saw women making exquisitely beautiful art prints using the words I had typed out months before. Women Tweeted, Instagramed, and blogged my words all around the world wide web. I found myself a heap on the floor again, but this time, I cried because I was so humbled. I was astounded that God used my writing – something I love to do so much – to meet with women’s hearts in such a tender way.

Putting your art out into the world is scary. If you are a creative of any type, you know what I mean. Art becomes your baby. You spend time with it, nursing it from when it’s only a tiny idea all the way to when it sprouts legs and takes on a life all its own. Once your art has a vibrancy beyond what you dared to imagine? This is when you know its time to let it go out into the world, like sending your grown child out with the car keys for the first time, hoping they will come back in one piece.

Even when you know it’s time to let your art out into the world, it’s still terrifying because you worry other people may not care about it like you do. It’s enough to make you want to keep it to yourself. I ought to know. I kept my writing locked up for the majority of my life, terrified of rejection or cruel feedback.

I have begun to realize when we create, it’s not our job to manage what people think about it. Our job as a creative is to show up, do the work, and let our work go out into the world to be shared with others. What happens from there is anyone’s guess, really, but attempting to micromanage the world’s response only keeps us from doing our part, which is creating other things.

Dr. Wayne Dyer once said, “What others think of me is none of my business.” I agree. Well, I’m trying to agree, anyway. It’s hard to separate ourselves from the tight grasp of wanting the world’s approval, but I know if I create with the approval of others in mind, nothing I create will ever be authentic. It will only be a cheap imitation of things I have seen that have garnered approval from the critics. And counterfeit-creating defeats the whole point of creating, doesn’t it?

Which means there's no escaping it: being vulnerable is the only way to be a true artist.

I'm not sure why we try to find a way around it, but there it is, the truth in all its messy glory. Deep down, we all know it's true. So we have a choice: do we let the fear win, or do we create? Do we send our work out into the world with the risk not just that the haters are gonna hate, but also that people may joyfully connect with our art? Sometimes, the second option is even scarier, isn't it?

To my fellow creatives: let's just stop, okay? Let's stop creating while we dwell on what the response, whether good or bad, will be to our art. Let's stop keeping our art hidden from the world. Let's stop doubting whether we are "real" artists. If you create, you're an artist. 

So now that that's taken care of...

Take a deep, glorious, audacious gulp of air, and get to work.