I had a lightbulb moment while thinking about art today. And it turns out to be bigger than just art.
But let’s start with the art lightbulb:
What everyone else says and writes about What Is Art and What Is Good Art and What Makes Someone an Artist – it isn’t necessarily fact or truth; it’s opinions.
All these questions about art have no ‘one right answer’, no expert to rely on who knew the ‘one right way’ to understand art or think about making art. There’s only a lot of space and endless possibilities. As many ways to go at it as there are people. Lots of ideas to contemplate – but no straight and narrow road leading to ‘one right way’ of working, creating, thinking… And while it’s a bit scary to be free in all that space, it’s also brilliant.
I like knowing things because it means I’m more in control of what’s going on. But there are things I can’t know, I can’t have a right answer to. And that can be wonderful.
So instead of getting frustrated in my attempts to make sense of what everyone else says and to figure out what they all mean – as if the diverse answers people have were all differently worded versions of the same truth that I don’t get – I can drop the fear of being wrong and looking stupid and just rely on what works for me, what I like, what I enjoy, what I find fascinating.
And let go of what other people will think of it, and of me.
So I can ask What is art to me? What is good art to me? What, for me, makes an artist? And essentially, that’s not just for reason to respond to, but the whole of me, mind and emotions and spirit included.
Or I can drop the questions altogether. It doesn’t matter.
In the end the real questions I would like to know the answers to are slightly different and rather more personal – in the end, I’d like to know things like Can I Be an Artist (there’s a Please somewhere behind that) and Can I Create (same) and Would It Be Ridiculous If I Created Something Hoping That It’s Art.
And I feel like I’m not allowed. I’m waiting for permission. I feel like I shouldn’t (create/ talk about art/ enjoy it…).
I still don’t actually, fully believe that despite the ongoing discouragement of my interest in art when I grew up, there’s value in it, a use (…), meaning. It’s a “hobby, not a profession” (you can use a talent for art to make a nice birthday card and that’s pretty much it, really).
But who the hell is going to give me permission to make art? Who could? By now it’s up to me.
Either I do, or I don’t. Either I decide I have the right and the freedom to create whenever the hell I want – or I keep hiding behind my fears and doubts (looking stupid, failing, …), afraid of everyone else’s judgments and opinions.
In a similar way (going bigger now), the realisation that there is no ‘One Right Way’ to live is equally liberating.
There is no ‘one right answer’ to that question either, despite all the people who are looking for it/ many thinking they have found it/ quite a few judging those who do not live by their version of it/…
Since we’re all equally scared of messing up/ not measuring up/ failing/ losing/ getting hurt by other people’s judgment of us/… we then tend to try to contain our own freedom, to find a safe place, safe boundaries, to protect ourselves by deciding on some sort of measurable framework to live within so we feel a bit less exposed, a little less at the mercy of the elements, whatever they may be.
But the truth is,
no one else knows what they’re doing either.
And knowing that makes it a bit easier to go out on a limb sometimes, to look a bit stupid, and laugh it off and see where it goes anyway. Nobody knows what they’re doing, really. We’re all afraid to end up looking stupid. We all try to ‘get it right’.
We are all so diverse, we need such different things for our lives, we express ourselves in such different ways – and yet we choose so often to restrict our lives to what our fear and our need for self-protection dictate, to whatever way of living the majority of people around us has settled on, for whatever reason. To what is considered normal, and what isn’t…
But now – could I invest all the energy that I used to spend on being like everyone else or living up to everyone’s expectations into being myself and living my life to the full instead?
What’s the worst that can happen –
nobody else knows what they’re doing either…