February 1, 2021

A lesson on Stoical realism

We artists love to create. We get inspired and we go to work. Our latest project is always the most exciting and it’s easy to assume that everyone will agree that our newest album, show, song, or whatever, is just what the world’s been waiting for. That is, until we share our new masterpiece with the world and other than a few likes on Facebook, nothing much happens and the world moves swiftly onto the next new, shiny thing.

The number of artists (be they painters, singers, dancers or whatever) who actually break through and achieve fame and success is so tiny that I think it’s a matter of self-preservation to be stoical about our work. We should set realistic goals and create work that we’re passionate about and not because we think it’s what we should be doing.

Let’s say I write a song with the primary aim of pleasing a particular audience. I make loads of compromises, I don’t really like the result myself, but I’m sure it will tick the necessary boxes to be a success. It’s released and nobody really likes it. It’s a big, fat failure.

On the other hand, if I release a song that I feel passionately about, that comes from the heart, I will feel it’s a success regardless of how many likes it gets and how often it’s downloaded. I will have created art for myself first, and that has to be what counts. If not, we’re forever chasing the latest trend and losing our artistic integrity along the way.

Of course, we want our work to be seen and heard, but if our measure of success is getting a number record or being shown in the National Gallery, statistically, we will probably end up disappointed.

I’m not famous, but I don’t consider myself a failure. I am still enthusiastic about my career because just by making my living doing what I love, I’ve achieved more than I dared to hope. Any more would just be icing on the cake.

Let’s simply aim to realise our own potential and to make the most of the talent we’ve been given. Yes, let’s be ambitious but at the same time, keep it real. For it is in unrealistic expectations that the seeds of disappointment and the bitterness are born.

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