Imagine you are standing on a wooden stage. There is a big, thick curtain in front. On one side is a massive, nattering, rumbling crowd. On the other side is you, listening to the noise coming from the other side, stomach churning, twisting into knots.
There are lines of scuffed tape on the floor for where to stand, a couple of faceless people are twiddling this and that to the side, the heat from the overhead light is searing. You’re sweating. You’re biting your lip. The music starts.
The curtains lift.
And there you are. Ashamedly exposed, nowhere to hide, in front of an unforgiving crowd. For a moment you are blinded by the spotlight. You know not to squint but you do anyway. There are faces out there, not that you can pick any out. Even though you cannot see them, you can imagine that they are glaring at you, waiting for you to get your act on, ready to pounce if you mess it up.
You are exposed on stage in front of this crowd because you chose to be there. You, as an artist, believed that you had something worthwhile to share with everyone. That belief held you up all the way through and now, now you’re here, ready to show everyone.
Only you left your belief back in the change room.
When belief is gone, doubt takes its place. Self-Doubt, the mighty demon, is always ready to tear down any misconceptions you had about your creations: It’s too simple, it’s too complex, they won’t get it, it is incomplete, there are mistakes.
The crowd will not forgive you. You will be ridiculed. Your name will be mud. You might as well walk away now before you go and make it worse.
How many creations are never shared with the world because of this anxiety?
It’s not trivial. Heck, writing a book was one thing. Publishing it was something else. The sweats took hold. My stomach danced a tango. For the next week after hitting the ‘publish’ button I was a wreck. I lost what little sleep was available to me. I couldn’t concentrate at work. Why?
By publishing, I had, in effect, stood out on stage while the curtains opened, baring myself to the world. This is me, I made that, and I sincerely hope you like it.
Biting the Bullet
Part of the artist’s struggle is maintaining the belief in themselves, fighting off the self-doubt, continuing on despite the looming possibilities of ridicule and shame.
The weird thing is that all the creative work is done. It’s the smallest step of getting it out there that is the the hardest to surmount. It’s pressing that button to post it to Soundcloud, or Smashwords, or to send it to a publisher. There is so much significance built into pressing a bloody mouse button.
In many ways its like asking a girl out, or going for a raise, or proposing marriage. If you, reading this, are an artist um-ing and ah-ing, or making excuses not to publish, then understand that you’re not alone. Also know that the feeling of failure is nothing compared to the feeling of unrealised dreams.
Maintain the belief that made you do it all in the first place. If it helps, get everything all ready to go, and get someone else to click the button for you.
Go on! Suspend your doubt for a second and, when you do, quickly click that ‘publish’ button. Stand up to Self-Doubt. Stand proudly on the stage. Show everyone what you did. Otherwise you’ll be left behind a closed curtain, wondering what applause sounds like.