creative self confidence in the internet age


Artists are notoriously either super-confident and egotistical (hi, there Dali!) or painfully insecure in their work and talent.

For those of us in the latter category, the internet can be remarkably encouraging or dreadfully soul-crushing. First you have the fact that there are definitely going to be at least 1,000 artists who are 1,000 times more talented and creative than you are (see the above illustration by the 1,000-times-more-talented-than-I artist Gemma Correll) who get 1,000 comments and favorites on every new drawing they post. They'll have fan bases and powerful bloggers who drool over their latest work. You won't be jealous, but you'll ogle at their greatness and wish that you had one inkling of the talent and raw creative magnetism that they hold.

Putting that aside, though, there's also the fact that almost every single website on which you can post the fruits of your creative labor will have some sort of feedback system. Below your post, viewers will have the option to favorite, comment, retweet, reblog, like, digg, stumble, unlike and heart. There's a world of feedback just waiting to be tapped into each time you decide to share your creations with the world. Knowing of those possibilities makes the dead silence ache even more. Of all the websites, Flickr, to me, is the worst because it tallies up the views for you whether you want them there or not (believe me, I've tried to get rid of them.) One, twenty, forty, two hundred. Two hundred people have viewed, and not one has offered an inkling of support. To the perpetually insecure person with the active imagination you can literally see these phantom viewers in your mind's eye, turning their noses up at you and shaking their heads in disbelief that someone as untalented, as horribly unsuited to the creative professions as YOU would dare to post their artwork in public. They click on, presumably hoping to find a picture of a fluffy cat in a funny situation that will help rid their memory of your appalling creation.

Twitter and facebook aren't quite as bad because you can imagine that every single person who follows you is out to dinner at the exact moment that you post your tweet or status update. They aren't snubbing you or ignoring your desperate pleas for someone, anyone!, to click and view your product of hours and hours of painstaking work. They're simply not there to see it. And by the time they do return, hundreds of other people have tweeted or updated and pushed your cries out of the way. But nevertheless, the silence hurts. You could have had all the confidence in the world before hitting that publish button, but once the damage is done you find yourself over-analyzing your work and questioning whether or not it was ever good to begin with.

If Van Gogh were around today, he'd suffer from the same ignorance as he did in his time, only now he would be ignored by the typing masses instead of the art critics. Or maybe both. Painting at least once a day, he'd upload painting after painting -- probably joining the daily painters group on flickr in an attempt to get noticed -- but the comments would not come. In a fit of desperation, he'd tape himself cutting off his ear, and post the video on youtube, with a link to his etsy shop, just in case. But his reckless attempt to get attention would still go unnoticed. He'd watch in horror as the view count went up on his video, but still nobody commented!

Wallowing in despair and self pity, he'd check himself into a mental institution and spend the rest of his days creating wild, vibrant paintings of the facebook like button.