One of the things I hear from a lot of artists is that they’ve always dreamt of being an artist – their whole lives.
They’ll tell me they knew sometimes as early as kindergarten!
And while I think that’s wonderful, it also makes me keenly aware of the artists who didn’t dream of this. The artists who found art later in life.
Because of the former, the latter can feel somehow less talented and less important – just less valid as artists.
It’s not the fault of the artists who have always known they were meant to be artists.
But it still creates this idea that knowing early on means you’re a better artist than if you found it later in life.
I hope you realize that’s crazy!
Artists can be phenomenal (or, conversely, not good at all) no matter long they’ve been creating for and no matter how long it’s been since they figured out that art was their calling – or even if they haven’t yet.
But I think questioning their talent is only the start of what these artists are going through.
When I was a kid I wanted to be a singer.
I’ve always loved to sing and felt in my soul that it was a fun career – not like teaching (which is pretty much what I do now) or becoming a doctor or lawyer, etc. Those jobs always sounded boring. And moreover, they sounded like a different person. Like I wasn’t the type of person who would be a librarian, or an architect, or even a dancer (the activity I spent the most time doing for the first 20 years of my life).
So when I went out on my own after college, fully not intending to be a singer (because I didn’t have the raw talent and was too embarrassed to work at it in front of a voice coach or my peers), I felt like I was letting my childhood-self down.
Little Laura would have been angry that I was taking a corporate job working in a cubicle instead of laying down tracks at a recording studio.
And I think that feeling comes into play with a lot of artists who didn’t know they were meant to be artists. They feel like their career path isn’t who they were supposed to be.
They don’t identify as “an artist”.
In our society, so much of our worth is tied to our career (perhaps because we spend almost as much time in our jobs as we do sleeping). So when you don’t identify with your career title, it becomes pretty difficult to not feel like you failed yourself.
The thing, though, is that Little Laura didn’t know what being a singer meant. She didn’t understand she’d have to travel a lot – and I’m a homebody. She didn’t realize that you spend a lot of time interacting with a lot of different people – and I’m an introvert. She didn’t realize that the industry is filled with promiscuity, alcohol, and drugs – and that’s not really my scene. Little Laura didn’t know that the career she was dreaming of didn’t fit her personality at all.
So I can’t blame myself for failing Little Laura.
All I can do is pick a path that makes Grown Up Laura feel happy now.
And the same is true for artists who found out as adults that they were meant to create art. They have to decide what they want in their lives right now and pick what makes them happy based on the reality of it – not based on what they thought being an artist meant when they learned about artists growing up. If the reality makes them happy, I always tell my clients to let their childhood self down gently and move on.