I recently decided to ask the following question to all of my artist friends: “What's the one thing that stops you the most from being a successful artist?” I got back more than a hundred responses and I was actually surprised to discover that one answer was overwhelmingly at the top: lack of confidence. It was so popular that it more than doubled the number two answer. I was surprised for two reasons, one, I consider myself confident when it comes to being an artist and two, I consider artists extremely talented and skilled individuals, which should make them automatically confident, right? Well I quickly realized having confidence is something lots of people struggle with and artists more than anybody, and here’s why:
Simply, artists have to communicate their ideas but other people not so much. Artists put themselves out there (with their heart and soul embodied in their work) and when you do that it’s like waving a big sign that says, “Hey everybody! Look at me! I’ve created something new!” We live in a world where too many people are comfortable and don’t want the boat rocked and here you come with your art, rocking it! Anytime they see an artist you’re reminding them of what they should be doing: creating! So what happens next? “Oh, that’s nice.” “I had a friend that tried doing that.” “Is that what you do for a living?” “What’s your real job?” “Well, that’s nice.” “Good luck with it.” There’s this inescapable tenseness that travels from them to you leaving the thought, “I should keep practicing because maybe I’m not good enough yet.” Let me tell you something. YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH.
Why? Because no matter how bad you might think your art is, at least you’re making it. All of the people you’re worried about pleasing probably aren’t artists and if they are they’re probably not making much art. Here you come with your finished piece of art. There they are without one. Luckily, they don’t have to matter much because there are plenty of people that support artists. If that wasn’t true then you wouldn’t be able to watch a movie, listen to an album or read a book. There are millions if not billions of people on this planet right now that support artists and the art they make. You just have to weed out the ones that don’t by standing strong, flourishing and prospering in the face of opposition. You just have to keep lifting up, extending out and presenting your art to people. No matter what. Don’t let one hater prevent all that will love it later.
Finally, Rome wasn’t built in a day. You don’t have to be Bob Dylan the moment you pick up a guitar. So you’re not Hemingway yet and they haven’t put a Nobel Prize around your neck, who cares? Know that you’re always going to make the best art you can, so why beat yourself up over it? The real reason any of those haters or critics can set you on fire is because you’ve got some small pile of firewood laid out somewhere inside you. Guess what? You don’t have to be society’s idea of what a successful artist is, you just have to be YOUR idea of what a successful artist is. As long as you can do that you won’t have any problem walking up to somebody and showing them what you made. Be confident knowing you’re doing something most people can’t and every time you do it you’re getting even better at it. Build confidence like you’d build a house, one brick at a time. And there’s no reason you can’t be a skyscraper.
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I'm David Carus. From overcoming one of the most dangerous cities in the country and graduating from one of the most prestigious colleges in America to leading an educational movement as a teacher and running for Congress at the age of 25, I decided the best hope our world has is through art.