The best artists are the ones who make themselves vulnerable to their audience. From within their choices comes a precious gem of humanity that rewards the audience. They receive a generous gift in the moment that elevates them beyond the human condition, filled with hope.
That same vulnerability that blesses each fan can also sew seeds of insecurity within the artist, rendering him powerless to move on to his next emotionally risky project. But I’ve learned, albeit the hard way, that the artist can deflate his insecurity by remembering three things.
I recently finished my first novel, STEELE BLUE. It was a labor of love that took hundreds of hours. While I’ve written short stories and “how to” books, none have left me more vulnerable than the novel. My very heart and soul was placed inside of its pages.
It’s true and easy for me to tell due to the flood of insecurity that ragged through my bones within hours of launching a Kickstarter program. To release the book I need to raise funds for an editor, photographer, model and illustrator, which is a humbling experience in of itself. By taking the risk of raising funds for my art, I opened my heart to fears that I’ve never experienced before.
I mean think about it: What would happen to my heart if I put something so meaningful to me out into the world and no one cares?
Thankfully, I remembered something a wise man shared with me when I was 12-years-old. He said, “Whenever you put your heart out into the world, make sure you know who you are, live a life of integrity based on who you are, and understand that you are to please God alone, not man.”
KNOW WHO YOU ARE
Lisa England is a friend and a brilliant artist. While she continues to work on refining her craft, she has insights that bring extreme clarity to the artists that surround her. One of the reasons people flock to her is because Lisa’s natural output always helps those standing within the same room. I’m speaking from experience.
Yesterday, Lisa and I connected on the phone with little time to reminisce. But in true Lisa style, she salted a few words of encouragement into my life by sharing how all of her clients attract audiences with little effort after they learn who they really are.
My sixth grade teacher stated something similar. He always said that when we know who we are and learn to appreciate it, we hold a confidence that no one can remove.
LIVE WITH INTEGRITY
“It’s okay for me to be me,” was a phrase I verbalized numerous times during my divorce a decade ago. I was giving myself permission to be who I knew myself to be. Yes, including the living out of my flaws.
When I hold confidence in who I was made to be, I quickly gain more confidence every time I’m honest with myself and others. When I stop trying to hide an aspect of who I am from certain people, I blossom more as the person that I am. It’s all about being true to ones self.
My dad grew up as a left-handed person during a time when society didn’t provide any compensation like left-handed notebooks for students. He had to turn the notebook upside down to take notes without rubbing his wrist against the metal coil binding – taking ridicule from fellow students.
His mind was filled with creative thoughts, as he lived a left-handed life while watching right-handers. But to fit in and avoid ridicule, he had to withhold certain elements of who he was and he couldn’t share his cool ideas. As a young boy, I watched him put his creative self out into the world and get trampled on, slashing his hopes and dreams into oblivion. This resulted in very few people knowing my real dad, but I knew him.
Over the years, I watched his eyes dull and his dreams fade. Then, I noticed the spark in his eyes when I started to reveal my creativity. The expression on his face was of joy every time I worked on a play, shot a film, or shared a new story that I had created. He came to life again, as I took the risk to live who I was out loud. The reward was great for both of us, but I knew that I had ideas he hadn’t considered that might one day displease him.
PLEASE GOD, NOT MAN
There is something comforting about creating things for God alone and not for man. It makes sense when I consider that He made me a specific way to create the specific things I make – And, all for His pleasure.
He’s like my dad, who looked on all my creative ventures with a sparkle in his eye. I couldn’t do anything wrong when I was truly being me. I remember a month long summer vacation my family took when I was a sophomore in high school. We drove a large loop to see all the sights west of the Mississippi.
During the trip, we met up with many of my dad’s friends who had moved away years earlier. Whenever we had dinner together, dad would always shift the conversation to my abilities of filmmaking and illusions. That was my cue to perform slight of hand at the dinner table, tell a quick story as I tore and restored a napkin, or made a saltshaker defy gravity.
Pleasing the people I met made my dad happy, but I soon learned that what made me happy was creating a story that would change a person’s perspective to something more healthy or performing in a way that brought encouragement to the person living a mundane life. It didn’t take me long to realize that I was wired to create things that revealed the hope God wanted in people’s lives.
Whenever I created something that revealed His heart, my confidence was elevated. Not because I was getting better at my craft, which I was, but because I was focusing on doing what He wired me to do. I was doing it to please Him.
There is a significant amount of confidence that comes when a person knows who they are, lives accordingly, and does what honors God. And, no matter how many times I get knocked down, reminding myself of those three things immediately starts deflating the insecurity that has snuck into my life.