The Vow of the Artist

There are a lot of things we don’t start because beginnings are meaningless.

Beginnings are meaningless. They are a spark, a bit of stimulus that could mean anything, existing with context because they have yet to forge their own surroundings.

Why do you want to start running? It hurts. It’s embarrassing to be a sweaty mess. And you’ll lose weight… maybe. If you keep it up. And who knows if you will. The same can be said for learning a new skill, pursuing a dream.

Those first actions are frightening. Like a few pennies in your back pocket, it’s just as easy to forget they’re there, just as easy to take them and throw them in the garbage as it is to find a place to put them. In fact, collecting more grungy, worthless pennies is probably a bad habit.

It’s a psychology that extends easily to starting anything. Especially for artists and would-be creatives.

When is there a pay-off? A return on your investment?

I don’t know.

But imagine standing in a crowd and singing a single note. You don’t have to sing it particularly well, just sing it. How long before people noticed? How long before they became irritated? Then, if you just kept singing, how long before people were actually impressed?

You see, you don’t have to do something particularly well. If you are consistent, if you continue long enough, you will draw attention. Even admiration. By singing that stupid sour note (or as sweetly as you please) you’re doing something that no one else is doing, and by doing it for so long, you’re doing it in a way no one else thinks they can.

And you know what? If you do it long enough, you’ll be a singer. It doesn’t matter if you get paid, or win an award, or if people ever want to hear you again. By the virtue of your actions, you can change your identity. Success is no determinant of who we are, not even of how we’re received.

Look at Christopher Columbus. He mislabeled an entire continent of indigenous people. But thanks to him, my daughter had last Monday off. I’m not saying you should go out and misidentify Native American tribes, only that you have no idea how you’ll be remembered, so why worry what other people think?

If you sing, you’re a singer. If you write you’re a writer. If you’re an artist… art!

Don’t worry about whether or not it’s a verb, you’re already over-thinking it! Just get out there and do what you love. Determine what you want to be and dedicate yourself to it. Do it win, lose or draw. It’s better to love something badly than to be indifferent to your own actions.

The vow of an artist is not to be the best (or it shouldn’t be). The vow is to live your life in a growing aesthetic or state of communication. You don’t need someone to tell you that you’re good. You don’t even need to think you’re all that good yourself.

Sooner or later, you’ll fall in love with what you do and the rest won’t matter.

And forgive yourself when you fail to be who you want. Don’t be ashamed to turn around and start again. Success is borne of failure. Until that time when you’re thrilled with what you’re doing, you still be a singer, an artist, a writer.

People can’t take that from you.

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