How To Be More Vulnerable As An Artist
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” — Brené Brown
Many associate vulnerability with weakness or feelings of guilt and shame. According to research professor and author Brené Brown, vulnerability is the core of all emotions and feelings. To feel is to be vulnerable. To believe vulnerability is weakness, is to believe that feelings is weakness.
When we share our art, our photography, our writing, we share who we are, our ideas and our emotions, with the risk of not being accepted or appreciated. This also means to be vulnerable.
In my own experience, learning these five lessons has allowed me to create more honest, meaningful and rewarding work.
Lesson #1: Embrace Imperfection
We are all imperfect beings. Neither of us are ever perfect. And so inevitably, our art will be flawed. Imperfection is innate in art, and it is fundamental to our growth and development as artists.
Perfectionism is one of the biggest barriers to being creative.
The illusion of perfection has only ever led me to create excuses and to procrastinate. I would feel inadequate, telling myself that “I don’t have the right equipment. I don’t have the right skills. I need more experience to create better work.”
There will always be an excuse for why you haven’t started yet, why you shouldn’t start yet, or why you can’t create the things you want to create. If you wait for everything to be perfect, you will never pick up your camera, paint brush or pen.
Perfectionism inhibits our creativity, and the best thing that you can do is to embrace your imperfections and start working.
As author and photographer David Bayles suggests, “the seed for your next artwork lies embedded in the imperfections of your current piece”. Don’t let perfectionism prevent you from doing your work. A good image is better than the masterpiece you never attempted.
“Art most closely resembles what it is like to be human. To be alive. To be imperfect. To have uncategorised feelings and emotions. To make or do things that don’t sometimes necessarily make sense. Art is all just perfectly imperfect.” — Brené Brown
Lesson #2: Let Go Of Your Own Expectations
“Expectation is the death of creativity.” — Brooke Shaden
As artists, we face the challenge of being accepted and understood so we put pressure on ourselves to create. And we put pressure on ourselves to create something great.
When we fail to do so, we beat ourselves up. We feel frustrated and disappointed.
Making art is exploratory so by giving yourself permission to create without classifying your work as “good” or “bad”, you’re allowing your ideas to develop through play.
When you were a child you created without any expectations. You created without reference for what was good or what was bad. You created because you were driven by your imagination.
I create my best and most creative work when I let go of the expectations that I place on myself.
Give yourself a break, be kinder and gentler to yourself.
“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” — Pablo Picasso
Lesson #3: Stop Worrying About What Other People Think
In following your own path, it is likely that your work will not immediately be understood nor always be appreciated by everyone.
And that is OK.
I believe you create your best work when you create art for yourself, not for anyone else. When you put your soul into your craft and share a part of you with the world.
I personally rather risk rejection by exploring the unknown, than seeking acceptance by following the familiar.
Feedback is important for our development, but pursuing approval, even that of our fellow artists, can be dangerous. If you believe the opinion of others is more important than your own, you are only betraying your own vision in favour of your critics.
I seek honest, objective and constructive feedback from people I respect, trust and whose opinion I value. I seek critique rather than approval. I try to receive critique with humility, keeping an open mind, and embracing the opportunity to apply new ideas and suggestions to my craft.
Authentic, meaningful art reveals who we are. It tells us and others about ourselves. The sooner you care for what you create rather than for the opinions of others, the sooner your art will become an honest expression of yourself.
“Care about people’s approval, and you will always be their prisoner.” — Lao Tzu
Lesson #4: Let Go Of Comparison
Stop obsessing about other photographers, their work, their path, their equipment.
As artists, at times we compare our work and our paths to that of other artists. I know I do, but I try to remind myself that the relationship between me and my work is the only relationship that matters.
Your journey should be significant enough to you that you have no time to get distracted by others.
Feeling that you’re not getting fair recognition or that you’re not as good as fellow artists, only leads to envy, self-doubt and fear. So it is important to surround yourself with artists who are not in competition with each other, but rather support and celebrate one another.
Art is not a competition and we don’t improve our art by trying to make it better than someone else. Our best and most authentic work comes when we create art that is aligned with who we are, unashamed and unapologetic, with no desire to be like anyone but ourselves.
Be inspired, but figure out your own vision and your own path.
“Art should be an act of giving, not taking. When we are free to celebrate the work of others instead of competing with it, we are free to learn, free to create authentically, and free to struggle toward mastery without the burden of ego and the weight of comparison.” — David DuChemin
Lesson #5: Embrace Uncertainty
Creating something new always carries an element of uncertainty. And this can lead to fear and self-doubt.
Being vulnerable will always be scary. There will always be insecurities around the work we produce. We are sharing a part of who we are with the world, and that is not easy.
I am still insecure about the work I produce but I am learning to acknowledge my fears, trust my instincts and move forward into the unknown, which is the only place in which we can truly be creative.
Fear inhibits creativity in our lives. But if you can learn to work with fear, then you will feel more inspired and confident to create. I think all artists experience fear along their journeys.
Fear of failing, making mistakes, fear of not meeting people’s expectations and being criticised, prevents us from producing work in our most creative form. By holding back you are not allowing yourself to be fully and honestly expressed through your art.
The work we most fear is the kind of work we most need to create. It is this work that will satisfy us the most and that will more powerfully connect to an audience.
“Our fear points us towards the very thing we ought to be doing. The greater our fears over some new venture, the more urgently we should be walking in that very direction.” — Steven Pressfield
Accepting failure and imperfection liberates us and opens doors to new modes of experimentation. Vulnerability is essential for connection and creativity. If we learn to embrace it, the benefits will extend way beyond our art.
Thank you for reading.