The topic of success comes up time and again for artists. Everyone seems to have an opinion as to how successful you are, which things are more successful than others, and how much success is enough. But what is SUCCESS? Is it merely the freedom to allow yourself to practice your art?
I think we all agree that there are several sides to being successful. The public side (which doesn't reflect how clever, talented, or wonderful you are) is about media accolades more than anything else, at least in our contemporary world. It's about being popular more than anything, and to some, being popular and well-known is a form of success. People who are not artists often view this as a fundamental perception of success. If you make it to a prime time TV show, you finally have success. For an artists, it can be frustrating for Auntie Flo to belittle your work because you "haven't been on TV yet, not like so-and-so". It's important to keep in mind that being famous isn't being successful, and though many people believe otherwise, this is just a marketing and media ploy to manipulate the public to only take seriously what they control.
Let's take it back a bit and get a bit more personal with the artist. Sometimes works take months, even years to complete. Heart and soul, sweat and tears can be poured into a work of art, often in an isolated environment, where there is a whole introspective monologue going on inside the artists head. The fact that one can complete an artwork is a HUGE success. With so much complexity the artist has in their lives, it's an extraordinary thing, which deserves every accolade.
Making something public can be difficult, but many artists eventually find a way, and the stage is set for a "successful" public perusal, which often includes critiques or reviews of ones work. A bad review? A scathing attack? Do these quash success? No. Let me tell you something about critics and reviewers; they embellish, they create their own story, they are nothing more than a member of the public with a single personal opinion which they must justify in order to satisfy their own audience. A review is rarely about the art, but unfortunately often about the art critic, more's the pity.
What about money? Well, financial success is more about business than art. It really doesn't reflect whether or not something is successful. It's about finding a paying public in a small niche' market. It's about running a business effectively where your customer comes first, providing art specifically for them, and constantly evaluating supply and demand. Sure, an artist can make a squillion dollars, but it doesn't make them successful artists. They have just run or had access to a successful business.
So what is success? Success is really in the eyes of the beholder. If i've managed to get through some of my tasks for the day, i consider i've had a successful day. If i've sold 1 or 10 or even 100 CDs in a day, i consider it a successful day. If i have written a snippet of a new piece of music, had an inspiring thought, made a decision, done a good deed for the day, my day has been a success. I consider myself a successful person, not because i've been on prime time TV, or had great reviews, or sell my works, but because i live a successful life. Isn't that real success?