The gloves have come off. And the hat…and the jacket…Whoa, slow down there Pakku. Let’s not get too crazy!
A special thank you to Kalietha for sending me this lovely piece of a very mischievous looking Una. No doubt she is hatching many a plot. Possibly involving stealing a poor Auditor’s hat when he isn’t looking.
I’ve been listening to the Audio book “The Art of Asking” by Amanda Palmer as I work on pages. Being the emotional person I am, I managed to make it a whole 90 minutes in before it moved me to tears. (For the hard-bitten among you, your tear-mileage may vary.) She was talking about the impostor syndrome, or, as she calls it, “the Fraud Police.” And how artists do not exist in a space where there are systems designed to create a sense of legitimacy. When I was an engineer, there was always a clear path laid out that made one’s validity obvious. Tests to take, criteria to meet, certificates and titles and a million other ways to say “You belong. You’re good at what you do. You’re a professional.”
Art has no such system. Creative people have to validate and legitimize themselves, and when we do, as Amanda put it, “we feel stupid doing it.” As though we’re playing dress-up and insisting that, yes, really, we ARE a dragon killer and we really DO ride a magical unicorn into battle. And even if we bring back some dragon heads, and mount them on the wall, we’re constantly worried that someone will say, “Why, everyone KNOWS dragons aren’t actually REAL my dear. Those are just clever fakes, and EVERYONE knows it. Now, why don’t you run along and get a REAL job? One that’s of VALUE to SOCIETY.” And then they sniff, and drink their tea, and nibble their cucumber sandwiches. (In my mind, they say this in a posh, upper-crust British accent.) These people, these IMAGINARY people (for the most part) are members of the Fraud Police. They are very convincing figments of one’s mind, and they show up every time an artist has to make tough choices about valuing their work. Especially when money gets involved. Which, in a world where goods and services are exchanged for cash, is a necessary part of having what one calls “A career.”
The line of the book that really got me, that I rewound and played back several times, was when Amanda wrote, “You are an artist when you say you are. And you’re a good artist when you make somebody else experience or feel something deep or unexpected.”
When a person EXPRESSES to an artist that they’ve experienced something deep or unexpected, that is the moment that person joins the artist in their fight against the Fraud Police. When they weigh in, and break that silence, and let the artist know that their work is not just a pointless shout into the void. “It matters. It made an impact. It changed a life. Keep going. We’re with you. We’re touched by what you do.”
I was watching the trailer to “The Temple of Art,” (which I think I mentioned before? Warning on that link for many swear words) but one of the comments was something to the effect of: “What do you get when you discourage an artist? Nothing. You get absolutely nothing. But when you encourage an artist? You get some truly amazing things. You may even get the book or the movie or the song or the painting that is there when you fall in love, or comforts you when love is lost. It may even be the very thing that saves your life.”
So thank you Kalietha, and thank you readers, and thank you to the people that write me a letter or come up to me at a con just to say hello, and to remind me that you enjoy what I do. That it has touched you in some way. Thank you for joining my daily fight against the Fraud Police. They are tenacious, but they shall not have me. At least, not for long, and not in the end.
And for anyone who has an artistic person in your life: Please take a moment to join them in their fight too. Even if it’s to take a moment of your day and send them a text, or an email, or stop by and let them know that you value what they do. They might be five years old. They might be fifty. Maybe they’re on the cusp of 100. It’s never too early or too late. You never know what they might make someday. It could be the most incredible creation, and we’ll never be able to imagine it today, but if we validate and encourage, we might be fortunate enough to enjoy it in the future.
How has a book, movie, song, or other work of art made you experience or feel something deep or unexpected?
Or, have you run into your own branch of the Fraud Police? How do you do battle with them on your turf?