Saturday, June 20, 2009

Artist or Fraud?

During the early days of my career (which i identify as being during my early 20's), i was just starting to find the courage to label myself a composer. This was a huge step for me psychologically because although i was working as a professional musician, writing music for film and dance projects and performing regularly, i lived in this fear than sooner-or-later i was going to be caught-out as a fraud!

It's a big word, FRAUD. It has all kinds of connotations with it, and the whole concept has a dirty vibe to it. That's what i felt. Like my dirty secret would eventually get out, and I'd be exposed as nothing more than a pretender, a fake, a low-life wanna-be. Pretty intense, hey. Yet people were paying me good money to write and perform music, i was getting great reviews, the projects i was working on received world-wide acclaim, there were awards and was this possible if i was faking it?

So intense were my feelings, that i began to ask a few close artist friends whom i had the greatest creative respect for, "do you ever feel like you're a fake?". Unexpectedly they ALL said yes, each one of them reacting to the question with a sense of relief that they could finally talk about it. I discovered that not only was i not alone in my own feelings, but that this mindset was prevalent in creative vocations. There is an unspoken fear that eventually the artist will be sprung, and they would be forced back to the depths where they belong. Most surprising of all was my discovery that the more talented the artist, the deeper those feelings appeared to run.

Begs the question "why", doesn't it. Well, i can only answer this by drawing from what others have shared with me, and through my own experiences. So here's my theory...

"Talented" artists (we'll leave the discussion of what talent is for another time), often start out in a less traditional way. For example, I'm a self-taught musician, only taking lessons in music to sharpen up my skills and perceptions of my art form as a young adult. This leaves the door wide open to feel less validated and uncredited. Also, music to me comes so naturally...practically effortless. It's so enjoyable, it feels like there is no work involved in it, because most people class work as being something that one has to strive over and struggle with. Music also exposes a passion in me, one that is self-perpetuating...the more music I'm making, the more music i feel inspired to make. Plus, making music kinda gives me a high. All in all, it's such an enjoyable and easy process, fun and passion-invoking, that i feel like i must be cheating somehow.

I remember feeling this way when i used to improvise song arrangements on the piano as a kid to pop songs. I'd listen to a song a few times, and that was all I'd need. My friends would often need a few weeks working on it, but i seemed to already know it. I'd also just start singing harmonies to songs i barely knew...and knew no one else who could do that. i must have been cheating. I felt like i was, because i seemed to already know the answers. It makes perfect logical sense, except that of course there was no cheating involved, and no fraud...there was no deception.

It's about time that we as a society accepted that work doesn't need to be soul-destroying in order for it to be valid. We don't need to hate our jobs, our boss, and ourselves in order to show we work hard, and only then deserve some kind of return. And what is that term "working hard" all about anyway? Isn't "working well" a better description? Surely being effective is better than being hard. And if something comes naturally, isn't that a good thing? So many fantastic artists i have seen don't market themselves, believing their work can only be a hobby because it's something they love to do. DOH??!!

If reading this has struck a truth in you, then chances are that you have something you do that comes naturally and easily to you. It's called talent, not fraud. It's real, and humanity need you to share it, not keep it locked up in your closet. If you need to share how you feel, let it out now, don't wait 'til you're on your death-bed with a suitcase full of regrets. It's perfectly natural to feel this way, but don't let it ruin your journey.

Embrace your potential.
Express yourself.
Expose that which comes easy...because for so many other people, what you do takes hard work.
Your natural abilities are more valuable than any certificate you could ever get in your life...EVER!!

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