A note to artists
Anybody who knows me is quite aware of my unwavering love for John Mayer. There are many reasons why this is probably not OK (a quick Wikipedia search ought to tell you why), but I, nonetheless, respect him as an artist. Thus, as any good fan with a smartphone would do, I browsed through his Instagram story yesterday. Now, if you are also a fan (even in the slightest), I’m sure you’ve seen one of his infamous tweets at one point or another. They tend to be borderline funny, but they essentially make no sense (at least to me). So, you can imagine my surprise when I opened my Instagram story and words of his, not said in combination with a guitar, resonated with me. He addressed his speech to writers and other artists, essentially claiming that there really is no way to please everyone, and in order to succeed in your respective art, you must be content with that fact and preach to your own audience, noting that you should be happy with “your piece of the pie.”
As a writer, this struck me. I frequently find myself swimming in the deep end of a pool filled with doubt that I have unknowingly created for myself. There’s nothing worse than creating your own masterpiece, finishing it off and admiring the immense effort that you put into it—only to find that others don’t see what you see. I’ve written many a word, some of which I thought were astounding, only to be told my work was indeed awful. I can’t pretend that every piece I’ve written is a life-changer, where the stars and the heavens poured out of my pen and onto the page. But I can say that I’ve felt, at least in certain situations, that this statement was indeed true—and for others to indisputably claim otherwise is not a great feeling. As a result, I would find myself writing words I didn’t feel or write in styles I normally wouldn’t because I knew it would make the masses happy. But why wasn’t I content with writing for me alone? Perhaps it’s the beauty in recognition; most artists—through whatever media it may be—seek to find even a sliver of adoration from anyone who will give it, but that brings us back to the problem of creating your art for everyone, when indeed the consequences with that are innumerable.
Thus, live by these words: Create for yourself. Write that song, shoot that scene, make that sculpture—but do it because it’s what you want to do. Don’t censor your voice in the attempt to bolster someone else’s; the cost you pay for that unnecessary luxury is too great. When you feel inspired, present that inspiration to the world and say what you want and what you feel—through whatever form that may be. The wrong way to view this philosophy, however, is as a right to say what you feel without regard to the feelings of those who may view your work. Speak your truth and own it, whatever that may be, but not at the expense of another’s. Sometimes, unintended offense is a consquence of art, and in those cases—which certainly are circumstantial—it’s easy to fall back on the “you can’t please everyone” rule. This rule is true but not meant be abused. Use it to inspire you to help yourself instead of using it to enable you to tear someone else down; there’s a fine line between censorship and offense, and it’s an easy line to toe. But it’s also easy to avoid if you stick to the main goal: Create for you.