Identifying as an Artist

The hardest part of becoming a writer, for me, was telling people.

I had no problem saying I was a software engineer. That was something concrete, and understandable, and which invited no particular further enquiry. It was safe. But to say you’re an artist of any kind takes a special kind of courage.

When I did start telling people — not just that I was writing, but that I was a writer — things changed. I felt a sense of relief, right along with the vulnerability and the doubt. It was like telling a secret, or perhaps confessing a transgression.

I suppose that art is a transgression, isn’t it? Because people don’t get to do that; to be artists. It’s a thing for children, or the pathologically detached and eccentric. Regular people, by definition, aren’t artists — or so we tell ourselves. So, yes, laying claim to art is transgressive. And like so many such acts, it’s also liberating.

Creativity is innate, but the application of creativity requires giving yourself permission. Correspondingly, becoming an artist is a simple choice you can make at any time, but identifying as one requires the knowledge of others. The anxiety we feel comes from our projection of the thoughts of others, after all. Safe within our private minds, we already know.

If you’re struggling with the fact (the fact) that you’re an artist, let me give you a piece of advice which I had to learn the hard way, because I don’t want you to have to wait, and to doubt, and to struggle with it.

Tell people.