Can I offer you a word of encouragement?  I think there are a lot of people who shy away from taking up a creative hobby because they think they won’t be any good at it.  Their first attempts were something they can’t muster up the courage to share with anyone.  Maybe they fear rejection, or they have been rejected.  Therefore, they’ve given up – they will never start or never try again, and that’s wrong.  That’s sad.

Moving Closer to a Dream

by James Todd Lewis

Today, we live in the era of “air-brushed” expectations – completely unrealistic beliefs about what we should produce and how it must be both popular and successful to be meaningful!  We are already held to unattainable levels in our appearance, our earnings, and our possessions.  Now, this imaginary standard extends even to our hobbies!  If you are a painter, you must be Andy Warhol or Thomas Kinkade.  Name any kind of art, and like an audience repeating the end of a well-known advertising slogan, people can tell me what is their arbitrary measuring standard for what it’s supposed to mean to be successful with art.

That establishment mindset presumes that your creativity only has value when judged by other people.  Let me encourage you by saying that the only person who really has to be pleased with your art … is you!  The greatest joy I’ve received from my own art has not been created by beating myself up for my failings against some arbitrary standard of perfection.  It’s been those little moments when I achieved a small goal, a small improvement, and I sensed that, on my own little journey, I was making progress.

Let me give you some examples.  When I was in college, I finished my very first book.  I had no idea what to do with it, but still, I realized that I had written something that was – at least – the size of a novel!  That felt good!  Later, I started reading some of what I was writing to my wife, and she enjoyed it and got involved in the story!  That was so rewarding!  Next, I actually held a copy of my own book in print format.  I cannot overstate the wonder I felt holding that book.  Because for the very first time in my life, it was mine.  When I self-published and started getting good reviews and comments, that was also amazing! 

So, does all of that mean that I have sold hundreds of thousands of copies and made my mark on the New York Times Best Seller list?  Of course not!  Am I on some well-planned and intricately orchestrated trajectory headed to reach that point?  No.  Have people laughed at my books?  Absolutely, they have!  Does it mean that I haven’t had people give me blunt, callous, and dismissive criticism?  There is no shortage of those people in the world, I assure you!  What about those self-proclaimed experts who just ignore my work as irrelevant or not worthy of attention?  What about all of those well-meaning people forgetting to write a review when they’d promised?  Completely true!  Still happens! 

My answer to all of that is … so what?  I still enjoy both reading and listening to my own stories!  I might be both the author and the audience, but even if I’m the only one, I still enjoy it!  The thing is, I’m not the only one, and I’m learning and trying new things all the time including reaching out to people in new ways!

So, here’s the truth.  There are no perfect people, and so there is no perfect art.  There is no movie, album, or book produced today by any studio or by any author that garners universal praise.  There is always criticism.  There are always the self-appointed elites who turn their heads and scoff.  So when that happens to you, don’t worry about it.  It’s okay.  After all, you’re not in this for them.  You are in this … for you, and you are moving closer to your dream.

That’s one author’s perspective.

JTL

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