One common fear of any artist is the inhibition in sharing his work/art due to fear of rejection. So, why are artists afraid of rejection? So what, if others reject you? Why should that matter? Well, it narrows down to some of the inherent needs of human beings - to be seen, to be believed, to feel REAL.
Amanda Palmer in her book The Art of Asking shares some of her fears as an artist and why she thinks that the fear of critics is a common element in the artists community.
Many artists (filmmakers, writers, musicians and so on) who had decided to forgo a life of predictable income and simple tax returns for a life of turning dot-connecting brains inside out and showing the results to the world, ultimately wants one thing from the world - BELIEVE ME!
And, if we want to know what we believe in, we must ask the people we taught. All performers, in fact, all humans, want to be seen, even the shy ones who don't want to be looked at.
There’s a difference between wanting to be looked at and wanting to be seen. When you are looked at, your eyes can stay blissfully closed. You suck energy, you steal the spotlight. When you are seen, your eyes must be open as you are seeing and recognizing your witness. You accept energy and you generate energy. You create light. One is exhibitionism, the other is the connection. Not everybody wants to be looked at. Everybody wants to be seen.
Sometimes, it may not be possible to show or hang our art on a wall still, our work can be art if we have put our heart and soul into making it. That's the only way we can be real.
Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real, you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand. Once you are Real, you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.
Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.
Believe me. I’m real. Here’s the thing: all of us come from some place of wanting to be seen, understood, accepted, connected. Every single one of us wants to be believed. Artists are often just…louder about it.
Amanda explains this inherent need in human beings by sharing an instance from her own life.
And that’s why stripping, even though it often paid way better, when I tried my hand at it a few years later, just didn’t do it for me. I was being looked at. But I never felt seen. The strip joint was like Teflon to the real emotional connection. There was physical intimacy galore: I witnessed hand jobs being given under tables,2 and lots of legs and tits and more being covertly rubbed at the bar. I danced for endless hours, stark naked on a stage, and talked for even more hours with the loneliest men in the world while pretending to drink champagne. We strippers were experts in dumping our drinks back into ice buckets when the customers weren’t looking—it was a job skill you actually had to acquire working at The Glass Slipper. If I’d actually drank all the absurdly overpriced champagne (from which I earned a 15 percent cut) that was purchased for me on a good night by lonely men who wanted to chat, I would have consumed, in the course of my six-hour shift, enough to have brought me to a blood-alcohol level of approximately five-point-dead. Sometimes I would get home and have a nice little breakdown, having no idea what to do with all the loneliness I’d collected. I tried to capture it in a lyric, years later, in a song called “Berlin” (my chosen stripper name): It’s hard to work on an assembly line of broken hearts Not supposed to fix them, only strip and sell the parts People would look straight into your crotch. But nobody would look you in the eye. And that drove me crazy.
Amanda's songs were dark and were mostly written based on her struggles to understand herself. Sharing these songs with the world was a scary deal because any rejection from the world would mean a direct rejection of her. She felt so pretentious and self-indulgent when she wrote songs from her own life.
However, we must overcome this fear and share our art with the world because it matters and it could be our gateway to redemption. Even if we can't/don't want to be in the spotlight, we can still play a supporting role. It helps us thrive and makes us feel useful to the world.
There is a certain sense of indiscriminate gratitude that is essential to hone if you’re going to survive in the arts. You can’t really afford to be choosy about your audience, nor about how they wish to repay you for your art. In cash? In help? In kindness?
The ideal sweet spot is the one in which the artist can freely share their talents and directly feel the reverberations of their artistic gifts to their community, and make a living doing that. In other words, it works best when everybody feels seen. As artists, and as humans: if your fear is scarcity, the solution isn’t necessarily abundance. To quote Brené Brown again: Abundance and scarcity are two sides of the same coin. The opposite of “never enough” isn’t abundance or “more than you could ever imagine.” Which is to say, the opposite of “never enough” is simply: Enough.
Seth Godin in one of his blog posts talks about errors that lead to fear when speaking or performing in public.
Processing feedback is another important untaught skill that comes handy when dealing with critics. It's important to know what feedback to ignore and which ones to work on. Here's how we can process feedback.
If you find any joy or value in this blog post, consider signing up for the weekly newsletter below.