If there’s ever a phrase to describe the artist, I think that’d be it.
Mind you, I don’t mean the entertainer. That’s one of the qualities where artists and entertainers differ–the latter have little self-doubt. Oh, they may wonder if they can “perform the steps” or “cut the book,” but they don’t look into the mirror and wonder “Why me?” and “Do I make a difference?” The entertainer suffers no such doubts–lucky they!
But the creative person wants to do something that’s different from the pack. They want something on their tombstone that’s unique. It can be many things–it doesn’t have to reside in the arts or “creativity” the way we typically think of creativity. Warren Buffett is said to think of his investments as a giant canvas, a work of art, and who’s to argue?
I don’t know if Mr. Buffett suffers doubt, but I can say that almost all creative people do.
Yet it’s ironic, because arguably it’s the narcissistic people out there who are flinging themselves on stage publicly. What gives?
Perhaps it’s sort of the way hackers are obsessed with security. There was a movie back in the 70s called The Conversation that starred Gene Hackman. He played a security expert who bugged other people for a living and yet was so paranoid himself that he made all his own phone calls from a public booth. He didn’t like the fact that his own landlord had a copy of the key to his apartment.
Opposites attract, I guess. That which does not kill us can only make us stronger. I guess that’s what runs through the head of any creative—subliminally, at least—whenever he or she begins a creative undertaking that could end in disaster. At a round-table of actresses once, Glenn Close commented that you really want to rally behind someone up on stage, no matter how badly they are doing. It’s you and me against the world, kiddo!
So the graphic up there, the one that looks like a Mastercard logo? It means people who charge into creativity without a second thought are doomed to narcissism. And narcissists are a dime a dozen. Especially in this Facebook/Twitter age.
And people who have too much doubt to stand getting burned will never be seen either. Franz Schubert was a great composer—one of the best ever. But he lacked Beethoven’s balls to get in front of the aristocracy and royalty. So he slaved away in obscurity, his genius not being discovered til after his death.
Beethoven got in royalty’s faces, but he also had self-doubt. Lots of it. Don’t let the scowl fool you. Have you ever seen a Beethoven manuscript?
That’s your model. Keep scowling. But keep checking yourself too.