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How Do I Know If My Art Is Successful?


a little girl thinking

Hey Artist,


So, recently I've been really buckling down on finishing my latest film. It's getting done and I'm being productive but as soon as I finish my days work I'm filled with anxiety, worry, and self loathing.


This confused the hell out of me. Was it some weird self sabotage? Was my brain mad at me for breaking paradigms?


Maybe. But I think the answer is simpler.


A great deal of my work has had, shall we say, less than glowing reviews.


As an independent artist (particularly a filmmaker) the reception of my work seems to vacillate between being unnoticed and being straight up hated. And sometimes, inexplicably, both.


This is one of the hardest things about art. "Well, I didn't make any money on my art. Almost no one saw it. But at least the people who did see, it hated it"


So then you try to measure success on a different matrix and try to be commercial. And then YOU hate it.


So every time I make art, there is this fear that it will be hated, ignored, and unprofitable.


It makes me not want to make art. Or at least not to show it to anybody.


The paradox of doing art for a while is that as you get more skillful, you also get more aware of how wrong everything could go. And yes, you could argue that it is "just art" or "just criticism". Where I live, no one is going to prison for making art that is unpopular.


But it takes a psychic toll. Trying to give the world a gift and having it rejected. Repeatedly.


So what the fuck do I do? There is no way to guarantee that people will like what you make. There is no way to guarantee profits or even visibility.


So is art a failure if it doesn't make you a profit? If it doesn't make you famous?


I don't think so.


I struggle with it; but when I am in a good mental state, I like to think of Earl Nightingale's description of success as "The progressive realization of a worthy goal".


My goal is to make art, get better at making art, and then sending it out in the world.


And that is something completely in my control.


It doesn't always help to battle the negative emotions that come up; but it does help me to start again afterwards.


Thanks for reading. I hope that this was a helpful read.


And thank you for making YOUR art. Even when it's hard.


EJG



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