I think most artists know that feeling. Even the successful ones. But my reason for feeling like a fraud is related to the fact that I question whether what I do can even justifiably be called art. And if it can’t be called art, then what is my role in the art world?
Nary a month goes by without wondering whether I say I’m an arts & culture geek because deep down, I feel like I’ll never be what anyone else would consider a true artist. But then my heart tells me there are days when we all feel like a fraud, and I start to feel a little better.
I understand self-doubt and fear of being labeled a hack is a strong de-motivator. However, I also think it’s a question that can bear fruit. Case in point: I don’t sculpt. I don’t design. I could never dance at the level that I dreamed of. I’m not a musician. Far from anything related to a chef. I’m not a poet. Can’t carry a tune in a bucket. My sketches are … sketchy and I wear clothes made more for comfort rather than artistic expression.
Sometimes that litany of self-criticism leaves me feeling vulnerable and foolish, but I respect my willingness to question my authenticity. Why? Because it has led me to a profound realization.
I feel more alive when I’m around other people’s art. The Spanish call it “duende.” When I connect with great art, be it paintings, fashion, ballets, installations or soliloquies, I feel inspired. The emotional tether that draws me to the story embedded in the impractical will always captivate me more than the practical ever could.
With that in mind, combined with my appreciation of my current nightstand read, Elizabeth Wilson’s Bohemians: The Glamorous Outcasts, I’m slowly learning what my place may be in this funky world of vagabonds and virtuosos. I’m a storyteller.
No, I don’t have any short stories or novels in the making. I’m not a playwright or a lyricist. But I am a storyteller. I tell other people’s stories. Sometimes in the form of journalism. Sometimes in the form of a loquacious blog post, waxing effusive about an amazing documentary, museum exhibit or one-woman show. In the end, a new story is shared with a new audience and — if I’ve done my job well — a connection is made.
I live for that. Feeling that connection and helping others find it keeps me humble. It keeps me humane, in a time when we could all use a little more “humane.”
At first glance, what I do doesn’t seem all that creative. But in a small way, I’ve learned from Wilson’s book that it’s the journalists — like me — who are tasked with a most important role in the art world. Without them, many of us would have to rely on hearsay to learn about Paris’ Montparnasse, Munich’s Schwabing, London’s Soho and New York’s Greenwich Village. The journalists helped capture the spirit and brilliance of the artists who made those communities so iconoclastic and enduring. And without journos typing away into the wee hours to mark the events of the artistic world, we would only have the critics to tell us what was worthy of our attention and dictate who’s voice deserves to be heard.
I’m often asked, “What do you write?” And before today, I’d usually stumble in my answer because I didn’t want to limit myself to one niche or specialty. But now, I can honestly say I write about people.
I write about people and their stories, the way they hope to be heard. I do my best to realize their tune and play it back in a different key, one that resonates with an audience without distortion. Can that be called art? I’m not sure. But it certainly makes me feel like I have a place here, in this strange, but beautiful world.
This is why I write.
Why do you create what you create?