Sometimes there is a hesitancy within us. A hesitancy to identify with labels such as “musician,” “artist,” “writer” or “actor.” What holds us back? Perhaps the fear of failure, or perhaps the fear that others will expose us as frauds. We fear that something about us has been faking what we’ve done this entire time. Yet, upon talking to Sarah Todd, she revealed that she too identifies with this fear. Sarah is well-known on campus as the Director of the Office for Talent and Career Development, but in her spare time she also writes fiction. When I spoke with her, she had recently completed a 70 page fiction draft. Even Sarah, at times, still has a hesitancy to identify as a writer, even despite her obvious accomplishments. And yet, she let me in on a little secret: if you are doing something creative, inventive, or intellectual, you are what you are doing. It’s similar to the phrase “you are what you love.” We become what we do: our habits, our quirks, our daily routines.
I too have a hesitancy to identify with these labels, something about saying I’m a writer or a musician feels fake to me. But maybe we don’t have to feel like an artist, maybe we just are. We don’t identify artists by their failures, or their absence, when they cease creating art; we identify them with what they’ve put forth, and what they continue to create. We see them for what they have done or what they are doing in the world, here and now.
So, what you are doing that is defining you? Or, if you haven’t yet started your creative process, how can you begin? Even if you’ve just started playing guitar, writing poetry, painting with acrylics, you are becoming, and you are what you aspire to be. We all start somewhere, and it is all too easy to diminish our accomplishments as too minimal, as not enough. I want to remind you that the process of becoming and of being is a beautiful thing. You are beginning to learn what it means to construct meaning in the world, through your own eyes and means of creativity.
Yet, through experience I’ve learned that art is not meant to be experienced in isolation. Art joins, fuses and blends our identities into something whole. I cannot describe the power felt when playing music with friends, even listening to music with them. Or, the immense calm that is created when painting with another artist. Our world was created to be powerful, beautiful, great. And, it is our calling to continue to be little creators within it. Find those that understand your draw towards creation, and those that can fully appreciate it alongside you. Fellow artists, as well, can help to encourage your art, to critique it, and to expose it to the world. I do not know whether artists are born or made, probably some of both, but I do know that no artist works alone. Each artist plays a part in drawing inspiration from the world, and in turn inspiring one another to continue to create. We exist to expose the world’s grace and greed, and to make something powerful from it all. As an artist, you are given a voice. Use it to expose injustice, spark inspiration, and find peace with where you are.
You are an artist. You are a writer, a painter, a dancer, a musician. Continue to move forward in your pursuit. As author Ann Patchett says, “There is something that you alone can say.”