In my day job I sometimes spend a morning seeing children who have been in car accidents. It’s repetitive for me and both boring and slightly daunting for them. So, I amuse us both by explaining that they have been dragged out of school so that I can check that they are real and their parents have not made them up to get lots of money. Then I ask them:
“How do I know you are real?”
Most of them shrug, go shy and start whispering to their parents for help, which leaves me undisturbed to full in the paperwork. Some children are more vocal. I was particularly taken with the answer given recently by one kid who was sporting the Young Professor look: sticky up hair, lopsided purple glasses sliding down his nose and a dubious grasp of grammar.
“How do I know you are real?”
He shoved his specs up his freckled stub nose and began to earnestly explain as if I really did need to know the answer.
“Well, I just get up in the morning and I do something and that means I am being, so I just is real. I am being every day so I always is real.”
I think he hit on a point. How often have you said or thought: “If I was a real artist/writer/composer/insert activity of choice , then…”. Usually that sentence ends with a negative: “… then I wouldn’t make so much rubbish/wouldn’t get rejection letters/ wouldn’t screw up so much manuscript paper…” Even when it ends with positive, it’s usually about procrastination. “When I am a real artist I will send my work out to shows. When I am a real writer I will approach an agent.”
Thinking yourself unreal never helps. Especially when to be real all you need is to do.
An artist makes art. A writer puts down words. A composer strings notes together. That’s it.
There is no test of quality in being real. A child is not real because they are exceptionally good at something or because they have been a child for thirty years. They are real because they live and breath and do things that children do.
You get up in the morning and you do something and that makes you real. When you accept that simple truth, you open up to yourself all kinds of possibilities, because you then automatically start to behave like an artist. Gone are the days of hiding your work in a drawer. That’s not what a real artist does. So you screw up your courage ( no one said real artists don’t feel fear!) and put something on Etsy. Gone are the days of considering good paint a selfish extravagance. Who ever heard of an artist without paint? You order a box of colour and experiment. And then, when you feel the doubt coming on again you have created your own proof. You must be a real artist because you have work for sale and half-squeezed tubes of paint all over the table!
Simply leaning the habit of saying “I am a real artist” holds power and magic. Try it today. And tomorrow and the day after, until its a habit.
By the way, that was not actually the best answer I got from a child. That came from a precocious ten year old who when asked, “How do I know your Mum didn’t make you up to get lots of money?” looked mischievously at her and said,
“You don’t . She did. Did it work? Because if we have lots of money we can go to Disneyland.”