Working with the voices inside

Let's face it. It’s hard being an artist. There’s no one out there encouraging you. Telling you the importance of your work. There’s no one there to validate your soul urge that just won’t go away no matter how hard you to try to talk yourself out of it. The Self Police (one of my trio of inner critics) says things like: “You don’t need to put yourself out there.” “Your poetry is far too personal or abstract to mean anything to anyone else.” “It is so narcissistic to write about yourself.”

But lately, when I work on my songs, there’s a newer voice inside, my inner champion, that says: “I love this song! It’s powerful and raw and catchy. I like the way you play guitar. You’ve got rhythm.” And then the natural instinct of the ego is to respond to that encouragement with: “Oh my god! Maybe I really can be a rock star. Maybe people will love my music. Oh, no! How am I going to deal with that?”

Lately, I have been developing a new method of dealing with that ego inflation. There is yet another, wiser voice that knows how to do reality testing, which comes from somewhere in the middle. The middle place is much more vulnerable than the inflated or deflated ego. This new voice of wisdom says: “You have no idea how people will respond to your songs. Yes, it is fucking terrifying to not know. [Yes, my higher self curses.] To put yourself out there not knowing if people will judge you or not, or how they will judge you." It is the most vulnerable thing I can feel. Not knowing. It feels like having no skin. It feels like ripping out your ribcage and exposing your heart. It feels like burning. But, you know what? You don’t have a choice any more, because no matter how hard you try to run away from your messy, inconveniently emotional, unconventional self, you will always need to express who you are, you will continue to need to express all the thoughts and feelings and dreams inside. And without sharing it with others, the artworks become staid. It’s like becoming pregnant but then not giving birth after the 9 months. What happens to the baby that doesn’t see the light of day? It would become the stuff of nightmares. Artworks are gifts, and gifts are meant to be given (with no strings attached). If the gifts don’t circulate, then their value is lost. Giving the gifts increases their value.

This is what has helped to hear most from this more balanced voice of higher self, or middle self:

“If you can’t put your work out there for yourself, then do it for others. Do it for the other people who are even more afraid than you are to make art, and to share it with others. Do it for the voiceless, disenfranchised people who need to witness others' courageous acts of artistic heroism in order to be drawn out of their shells and spells of disempowerment.”

And so, if you are at the precipice of giving artistic birth, and you are trembling with fear, and you think “I cannot do this.” Remember, this is not just about you, this is about all of us. We all need the arts for the survival of the soul. For the evolution of human imagination.

Please share your comments below. I would love to have a conversation about what sharing your artwork feels like to you. Stories? Dreams? Feelings? Thoughts?