Recently I’ve found myself exploring the backgrounds of the artists, writers, and singers I admire, and most of them form a common pattern. Of course, the specific details of their lives differ, but for almost any creator who’s exploded on whatever scene they’re working in, their trajectory is thus: they found an outlet for their thoughts, feelings, and struggles through their chosen art form. After working at it for years to little or no success, they quite easily could have decided to give up, and may have found a comfortable lifestyle doing something else, something with a little less risk. But for some reason or another, they kept pushing, and watched as their art gained traction, built up an audience, and in some cases, skyrocketed to public acclaim. So many people who are now swimming in cash and fans, whose every creation seems to be executed flawlessly and effortlessly, started out as an amateur dreamer whose work only reached them and a small circle of supportive friends.
As the age gap between myself and the vast majority of supremely talented and successful creators continues to shrink, I have a hard time reminding myself of that. I keep finding myself drawing comparisons rather than inspiration from people who are more talented than me, and struggle to see how I can make the leap from my own lack of refinement and skill to the upper echelons of notoriety and achievement. A lot of the time, it seems like it would be a better idea to just give up now and move on to something safer.
But right now, today, I am reminding myself that a lot of people aren’t born into wild success, and that I may be experiencing the sort of low that precedes the uphill climb to success. I don’t say that because I think my work is up there with that of anyone brilliant or successful, but precisely because it’s not. I struggle to begin writing when I have an idea, or to trust my mind to wander off and come back with one when I don’t have any. Sometimes, I’m not exactly sure what it is I want to be doing. But I do know I want to create things, things that mean something, that connect to people, that last after me. Despite my doubts, these vague goals keep driving me, and I feel that continuing to write will bring me closer to them. I imagine this is how other creators must feel, and that the lucky (or merely stubbornly persistent) few that push past their doubts are the ones who inspire others today.
Sure, a lot of successful people were born to the families and circumstances that allowed them the opportunity to practice their craft and find the right outlets to disseminate it to huge, adoring audiences. And maybe even if I do work tirelessly block out negative thoughts and keep practicing, my own work won’t amount to anything. But on the slim chance that by sheer force of effort and whatever talent I may have been born with I can approach the kind of artistry and success I strive for, then I have to try. I’ll keep writing, and I hope you continue whatever fulfills you as well.
(As a side note, for a quick follow up to last week’s post, thank you to everyone who read it and especially to everyone who reached out afterward to thank me, share similar stories, or otherwise support my writing and my identity. It means a lot to me that my writing was able to speak to so many people, and it is because I am surrounded by such caring and supportive people that I was able to feel comfortable writing that post at all. So, again, thank you. I really appreciate it.)