Everyone has days when it feels like the whole world is against them. Sometimes it seems like, no matter what you do, you just can’t catch a break. It may feel easier to quit and cut your losses rather than keep on keeping on. Maybe you start to feel the heat of resentment on the back of your neck, lashing out at a world that is out to get you. These are all normal ways to feel. There will always be fleeting moments of frustration, doubt and anger. It’s how we choose to deal with these moments that define our path forward.
Right now our nation has a leader at its helm who believes that the only way to get ahead is to win, at any cost, what he considers a rigged game. Our president exerts a great deal of energy surrounding himself with fictions designed to divert our attention from what is going on behind the smoke and mirrors. He has run his career this way, using devious routes of power to crush the opposition. So what does this have to do with the art world and the feeling that you can’t break in?
Wait for it.
Again and again after assuming power, the president has put forth outrageous and unfounded claims that indicate some vast conspiracy he believes he is the victim of. Now, two months into his term, his claims are being systematically dismantled and he is being shown as either a liar or a madman. It remains to be seen which. What is happening on the national (and international) stage is a good warning to the rest of us when we find ourselves caught up in conspiracy thinking.
Is it true that there are people who have had a much easier time in the art world because of family connections, wealth, or plain luck? Of course. Are all of the artists, curators, gallerists, and others making it today truly those at the top of their game? No, of course not. It is absolutely true in any field that there will be those who manage to find their way to the top not because of their own merit, but because they happen to be born into the right family or be at the right place at the right time.
So then. Does this mean that the art world is a gated community and you should stop trying to make your way in? Absolutely not. No. Not for one moment. Have you lost your mind?
The brutal truth is that this sort of thinking is sometimes the easy way out. Allowing yourself to think that no matter what you do you will never succeed in the art world is tantamount to giving yourself a free pass to stop trying. Believing this, truly letting it get the better of our forward momentum, typically serves only to blunt our ambition.
This sort of thinking is almost always off base. This week we have understood in quite clear terms that there was no basis for the claim that our president was under secret surveillance at any point, as he has said he believes. Just as there is no basis for the idea that you as an artist cannot make it no matter what you do.
Consider real world examples, people who have come from obscurity only to make a living doing what they love. We have profiled several people just like that in this very blog as part of our Real Artists Case History series. These are artists who refused to allow the doubts that plague everyone to sap their own ambition. They simply put their heads down, dug in their feet, and worked tirelessly until they began to see the results they wanted.
Make no mistake, it does take work. For the artists profiled in our series it was a combination of hard work and tenacity that led to their ultimate success. And once achieved, they couldn’t simply sit back and relax. Making the choice to work for yourself, to pursue the life of a working artist, is making the choice to be relentless. There is no such thing as a weekend or a vacation when you are trying to make it. You are always working and at any given moment must be prepared to lean in to your work.
There is no mafia blocking the door to the art world. There is no vast conspiracy keeping out those who aren’t deemed worthy at birth. There is simply a community of people who have fought tooth and nail to get where they are, some perhaps having more advantages than others, a community in which there is always room for one more.
Art isn’t static. It can’t be. By definition art must constantly evolve and change. For this reason, there is always room for new perspective. Do not let your own doubt cloud your goals. Banish the excuses and the poor-me attitude and put in the work. Don’t stop until you’re standing on top. And then, keep going.