The Stupidity of Trying to Produce Art Alone

For weeks–maybe months, now–I’ve been trying to bring my novel to fruition by myself, trying to continue the story I was once bursting to tell. Sadly, it’s not working out that great. It almost seems like I’ve lost the fire for it. Some days, I just look at the filename and feel sad; I feel like nobody will like it, or that nobody will want to read it.

During the years I’ve been writing this novel, I’ve been scared to show more people what I’ve written, either for fear it’ll get stolen/ripped off, or afraid that others won’t like it. It’s a ludicrous feeling, like a pregnant woman being afraid to give birth because she fears her baby will be ugly, while at the same time she fears that her baby will be stolen. And yet…it’s a valid feeling, too; this half-finished novel is a product of my hard work, and I don’t want that hard work credited to someone else, or cast aside as unworthy.

Why Artists Can’t Create in Complete Solitude

Pop culture (and even some art about artists) generally paints artists as loners, but that’s at least partially untrue. As much as we might need peace and quiet to finalize our ideas, we actually can’t produce art in a vacuum–other people help and influence us, even if they never realize how much they’ve helped.

So many times I’ve been in public, for instance, and heard an exchange between people that reminds me of something in my novel, or reminds me that I should put something similar in a certain scene. Not to mention my friends’ opinions on the bits of novel I do share with them, the snapshots of scenes I’m not too scared to share with them. Talking about our art with other people is a way to keep us believing in what we’re doing; isolating ourselves, or our art, slowly kills the budding artistic expression.

And yet, creating in isolation is precisely what I’ve been trying to do for the last few months. I love my little novel baby, but I’m afraid she’s not good enough for others, or that she will be stolen from me, so I’ve isolated her and hidden her from the world. How silly and stupid of me, in retrospect. No wonder I can’t write anymore; no wonder I get sad when I look at even just the filename. The novel is becoming synonymous with failure and sadness instead of joy, because I only have my opinion to go on, and my opinion becomes more negative by the day.

This is, as I have unfortunately discovered, dangerous territory for me, and indeed it’s dangerous for any artist. We who make art simply can’t hoard it to ourselves; art is for sharing with other humans, whether that’s a small group of people to a worldwide audience. I have big dreams of this novel going worldwide and brightening lives everywhere, and I would wager a guess that other artists dream of showing off their works, too. But in order to get our art to completion, it’s almost necessary to let a few, trusted friends see it, to help us shape it and better it. And, much as a mother-to-be needs help from others in the last months of pregnancy, an artist’s friends surround him or her and help keep the process grounded.

Breaking Out of the Isolation Shell

As artists, we have to realize that it’s okay to share the knowledge of our unfinished art “babies,” even if we’re afraid of the feedback. I suppose it’s much like an expectant parent showing off ultrasound pictures–people will still ooh and ahh, even though the little one is not yet fully formed, because we respect and admire the miraculous process.

Likewise, people at least know a little about the artistic process, and sometimes are willing to help, to offer feedback that will bring our baby projects into the world at last. We just have to be brave enough to let someone else see the ultrasound pictures first. Others, and others’ opinions, are not to be feared; that fear is actually the enemy of art itself.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.