In one of my life’s many moments of crushing insecurity, I read a book called Make Every Man Want You by Marie Forleo. In it, she writes about something called the “irresistibility paradox,” which is that “you’re already irresistible, and there’s more to come.”
According to Forleo, although every woman is inherently irresistible, as she realises it, she becomes more so.
When I read that, I thought, Pfft, that’s ridiculous.
I forgot about it until several years later, when I started to walk around and call myself a writer. I realised maybe Forleo was onto something: maybe we’re all on some level already what we want to be, and, once we acknowledge it, we become it even more.
A woman who believes she’s irresistible develops a confidence that draws people to her, even if she’s not conventionally beautiful.
An artist who believes he’s an artist develops the confidence to do his art. In order to believe he’s an artist, though, he needs to relinquish certain misconceptions:
1. Real artists never feel like frauds.
Impostor Syndrome doesn’t go away with fame or success. Martin Scorsese admitted to it. So did Tina Fey, Don Cheadle, Kate Winslet, Neil Gaiman, and Emma Watson.
Maya Angelou was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and won 5 Grammys for spoken word recordings. She said, “I have written 11 books but each time I think ‘Uh-oh, they’re going to find out now.'”
2. Real artists are more original than other people.
We’re all unique humans, which means anything originating from our authentic selves will be “original”, even if it’s already been done a thousand times. That’s why Elizabeth Gilbert advises, “Act from a place of your deepest authenticity, and the rest of it will take care of itself.”
3. Real artists are braver than other people.
As Seth Godin puts it, “Bravery is merely a choice. At least once in your life (maybe this week, maybe today) you did something that was brave and generous and important. The only question is one of degree… when will we care enough to be brave again?”
4. Real artists are smarter than other people.
In 1983, the American developmental psychologist Howard Gardner identified 8 types of intelligence:
- Intrapersonal: The ability to understand your own thoughts, feelings, and goals.
- Interpersonal: Empathy and the ability to get along with others.
- Logical-mathematical: The ability to comprehend and create logical relationships between thoughts and objects.
- Naturalistic: The ability to conceptualise and identify forms in nature.
- Spatial: The ability to think about and manipulate objects in space.
- Bodily-kinesthetic: The ability to move your body with grace and skill.
- Linguistic: A sensitivity to the meaning and music of words.
- Musical: A facility for rhythm, pitch, meter, melody, tone and timber.
You can employ any of the above-listed intelligence types in the service of art. Chances are you’ve got at least one of them.
5. Real artists are either broke and starving or rich and famous.
Loes Heerink reminds us we can keep our day jobs and still make gorgeous art that moves and inspires people.
Or, if you’re like me and would rather do creative work full-time, Ann Rae, Cory Huff, Jeff Goins, Holly Lisle, Fizzle and CreativeLive all offer online courses that’ll show you how to make a decent, regular-person living at it.
6. Real artists don’t have to promote themselves. People discover their work naturally.
As an introvert, I wish this were true. Alas, it isn’t. Luckily, the need to promote our work (that is, if we actually want people to see it) doesn’t mean we have to turn into that smarmy guy at the party who talks about himself all the time.
Drew Kimble’s Quiet Impact: A Creative Introvert’s Guide to The Art of Getting Noticed has some great tips for putting yourself “out there” when you’d rather hide under a blanket, as do the resources mentioned under #5 above.
7. Real artists are more inspired than other people.
Almost every artist I’ve spoken with has experienced creative blocks at some point. Inspiration is something we have to create, rather than wait for.
8. Real artists are more talented than other people.
For me, a belief in the existence of talent has always been toxic. I never thought I had enough of it, and if I didn’t have the talent to write anything that mattered, why bother writing?
What saved me was realising my definition of talent didn’t serve me (“If it doesn’t serve you,” one of my favourite yoga teachers once said, “let it go”).
I’ve found it more useful to think of “talent” as a synonym for “love”: having talent means loving a thing enough to commit to it and stay present with it, even when it’s hard.
Loving an art can be as tough and scary as loving a human, and it’s just as worth it.
9. Real artists are always at least a little nuts.
Nope, wrong again. Artists only go crazy when they’re not making art.
As Steven Pressfield puts it, “If tomorrow morning by some stroke of magic every dazed and benighted soul woke up with the power to take the first step toward pursuing his or her dreams, every shrink in the directory would be out of business. Prisons would stand empty. The alcohol and tobacco industries would collapse, along with the junk food, cosmetic surgery, and infotainment businesses, not to mention pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, and the medical profession from top to bottom.”
10. You could never be a real artist.
You are an artist.
Everyone is. Visit any kindergarten classroom if you don’t believe me. The only difference between those who keep making art and those who don’t is that doubt doesn’t stop the ones who continue.
Featured Image: “Man eat a guitar” by imacture, Adobe Stock.
What about you, reader? What misconceptions will you have to give up to believe you’re an artist? Let us know in the comments.
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