Today I'm writing about something that's a constant struggle of mine: balancing the reasons I make art (I have to, it brings me joy, I feel it is a gift from God, I love it, etc) with the reality of being a working artist (making money, freaking out about making enough money, juggling 50 different things, insecurities, etc).
Mainly today I'm thinking about COMPETITION. Ugh. What a nasty word when it comes to art.
I grew up an athlete with a competitive spirit. I played softball in college. I started running races after college, always trying to beat my best time and stay competitive with myself.
But art time...art was not competitive. Art was for me. A special place to hide away and delve into the joys of making things.
As an art teacher, I did not worry as much about what I made or if it sold or if people liked it. (I emphasize here the words 'as much'). Instead, I just made stuff for the pure enjoyment of it. And I made stuff all day long. Whatever my students were making, I was making right alongside. It was never going to sell or make me rich and famous. I just made it because I enjoyed the process.
But, as much as I loved teaching, my goal was always to be a full time artist, and that's the leap I took 2 1/2 years ago. And it's been a grand adventure that I LOVE and feel called to continue doing.
However, something has changed in me and I don't like it. I have found that my joy of making things is being overshadowed by my desire for people to like it as much as I do, buy it in huge quantities, share how much they like it with others so that more people will buy it and then discover me so I can live in this artist fairy tale world where everything I make is so fantistic that it takes your breath away.
Yep, there's my confession. And I bet 99% of the other artists out there feel this way often too. You appreciate others work, but just at the same time, you feel just like Danielle from the Jealous Curator:
"There is one moment, in the first few seconds, when you look at a piece of art and know that you love it. It’s the moment when, if you’re an artist yourself, you look at it and feel a rush of uplifting inspiration… and total soul-crushing jealousy all at the same time. It’s when you walk away thinking, “Damn, I wish I thought of that.”
I don't want that feeling to overshadow the reason I make art.
I want inspiration to propell me, but I don't want jealousy to destroy me in the process.
Which leads me to some news: I won something! My piece 'Think Pink' placed 21st out of 2748 entries in the Minted x Domino Art Challenge and was selected to be sold on Domino.com (Why are you telling us this now Megan?)
Here's why I'm telling you this in the midst of talking about my battle with competition: (and this is where I get real, and I let the real, sinful, prideful Megan show her ugly face).
I was disappointed.
Gasp. I said it. You now know the 2 year old that lives inside me.
I wanted to place higher, be featured in the print magazine, and most of all, I wanted more than one piece of the 20 I entered to be chosen.
I wanted all the candy, not just one piece.
Man, I'm a brat.
Less than a year ago, having work on Minted was not even on my radar. I had one piece chosen in the spring, and was ELATED. Slowly I've built up a nice little collection of items sold through this company, and it's an honor and blessing to be able to do so. I've established relationships with other kind and talented artists. It's been a neat thing to be a part of this community. And up until now all my entries had been editor's picks, so 'Think Pink' was my first official 'win' (scored by voters) It was a cool moment for me.
But I was a brat.
I just pouted to my husband saying, "why didn't they like this one, or this one?". I had entered what I thought were some really cool pieces. And instead of focusing on the good, I dwelled on the bad. In my mind, I had "lost" 19 times, not "won" once.
So the past two days I've been doing some soul searching.
I really want to take strides to focus on the joy of creating, not the stress of competing.
I will keep entering Minted competitions, I will still pursue opportunities that may involve rejection, but I want to be grounded in the truth: "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:18
It does not matter if what I make is beautiful, if my heart is ugly. If I create pieces that win prizes and bring home the bacon, but my heart isn't right, it will never be enough. I'll just be wanting more and more.
And just because what I create doesn't win a prize or make me money, doesn't mean it doesn't have worth. The worth came from making it. The process of discovery, the joy of creating something from nothing, the giddy feeling that takes over when what you envisioned comes to life, or the growth that comes from mistakes made along the way.
So I challenge my fellow artists: remember why you are doing this and put your joy into your work. Don't let comparison and competition steal your joy.
And in life, not just art, focus on the blessings God has given you, not the things you don't have. Because these things are temporary, but our souls are eternal.
Is your glass half empty? Or is it half full?