How long does it take or how much work do you have to do before you can consider yourself an artist?
Some say it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in something, but I don’t know if I believe that’s true. So what’s the threshold of artistry? And do you need to be an expert or a master to be considered a professional?
I’ve written and created artwork for over ten years — at least since I was in high school. I’ve taken painting classes and writing workshops. I was published in a very small lowkey anthology and I worked for my university’s independent press. There was even a somewhat mediocre short story collection in there. But it’s taken me until now to call myself either a writer or an artist.
Why is that?
When my friends write or paint or do basically anything, I’m so ready to be a cheerleader for them and support their creative goals. Why am I not my own cheerleader when I write or paint?
I’m always so quick to tell people, “If you write, you’re a writer!” Or, “If you paint, you’re an artist!” But I never considered myself either of those, even though I was writing seriously and painting a lot because I enjoy it.
Is there a threshold you need to cross before you get to be referred to as an artist or a writer? I don’t think so. At least not for other people.
I want to stop being afraid of being called an imposter! I want to give myself permission to see myself as a creator. And lately, I’ve been doing just that. By painting more and more with the goal to have enough quality work to fill an Etsy store, I’ve been growing as an artist. By working hard and hand-writing my next novel, I’ve been getting more excited about the future about my writing career.
How did I suddenly decide to let myself be a “serious” creator? I constantly as myself:
Why not me?
Other people sell their art, so why not me? Lots of writers publish a book, so why not me?
It might be obvious and way too simple, but it works. In all its simplicity, asking the question is enough.
Whenever I feel the fears and self-doubts starting to creep in, this question helps me open my mind to all the possibilities I was shutting down. There might be a million reasons why I could fail, but there are also a million reasons why I could succeed. I’ll never know unless I try.
Of course, this sort of thing is easy enough to write about, it’s harder to actually live. I can pretend to cheerlead myself as if I’m advising a friend, but as soon as I put down the laptop and step away it’s hard to put it into practice. In the moment, when the fear starts eating away at my confidence, it’s much more difficult to feel like I deserve the titles or the recognition.
But, why them and not me? Why not me?
I am a writer, because why not? I’ve been writing for most of my life and I spent the last 7 years writing novels. If that doesn’t earn me the title, I don’t know what does.
I am an artist, because why not? I love painting, I’ve taken a few classes, and it brings me joy. There are so many people who’d give themselves the title for less.
Even if I never make a living off of my paintings or my writing — even if I only ever make $20 at most from Medium — I’m still an artist because I’m passionate and invested in my growth and development. Money doesn’t make an artist, but a deep love for your work does.
Don’t let the imposter syndrome eat you alive. Look at all the amazingly talented people around you, and say to yourself: Why not me, too?
There is no actual reason why you shouldn’t include yourself as a writer or a painter or whatever you’re trying to be. Any reason you can think of is just your fear talking, and it doesn’t have any clue. If you’re doing a thing and you love it, then that’s your thing.
You don’t need to have won a prize or made a million dollars or even made money at all for it to be your thing.
I’ve finally given myself permission to be an artist and a writer, so I can stop waiting around for life to hand me the plack that says, “Congratulations! You’re officially a writer!” That was never going to happen. I need to live my best creative life now, or I’m going to miss out.
Don’t miss out!