Real Art Is More About Being Brave Than Being Good
Having a voice means nothing if you don’t use it.
You see all these talent competitions on TV, all these shows about who’s the best singer, who has the best voice. The thing is, outside of being able to carry a tune, it doesn’t actually matter how good your voice is. I’m serious. It doesn’t matter how good your voice is, how technically trained you are, how amazingly you can sing. There are probably thousands of other people out there who can sing just as beautifully as you, and probably quite a few who can sing even better.
You see, much like beauty, talent is a dime a dozen. And like beauty, talent gets attention, but attention is not — and will never be — connection.
Being noticed is not the same as being cared about. Being noticed is not the same as being remembered, or desired, or understood. Being noticed is not the same as being, as Seth Godin would say, remarkable. But more than just remarkable for a passing moment, a fleeting glance. Remarkable for the mark you left. Remarkable for the lives you changed. Remarkable for the world you made better in the way only you were capable of. Because of who you truly were. Because of how you truly were.
It’s not enough to just have a voice, no matter how beautiful it may sound. You actually have to use it. To say something, to tell us something, to show us what you see and who you are, what you’re made of. Otherwise, you become just another member of the chorus: indistinguishable, unremarkable, from the rest. Just another contestant on a show. Just another voice.
There is only one way to break free of the chorus, the voices.
It’s to have a point of view.
Have an unmistakable, unapologetic point of view.
I mean have a Real Voice. Not just another voice. Use your Real Voice. Use your perspective. Have a living story to tell, that you keep telling. Have a particular way of seeing the world and life and people — an inner way of making sense of things, of putting things together — that feels authentic and thoughtful and real and so individual to you, and yet, has the ability to touch others outside of you. To make a connection. To let them identify with you: see a piece of themselves in you, and at the same time, see you in themselves. The individual and the personal becoming one with the collective and universal.
When you have a point of view, a Voice, you give people a reason to listen to you. Really listen. To watch you, get to know you, beyond just your talents. See, there are talented people everywhere, and new tricks and gimmicks and styles crop up all the time. Novelty is always interesting because it’s new, but it takes more than just novelty — what grabs your attention — to make a real fan out of a passing spectator. To make that connection. It takes substance, and consistency. Because a first impression is just that: the first. What about the second, the tenth, the one hundredth time that someone encounters you? Will you have more for them to hear, to learn, to think about? Will you have anything new and real and true to say to them that will make them want to stay for more?
Will you have anything worth listening to?
Because it’s not that you don’t have anything to say. Believe me, you have something to say. The question is, are you saying it? Are you making it known? You already have your own personal perspective on the world. But you have to bring it out so we can see it. And if you don’t know yet what you really have to say, just start from this simple place:
Have conversations with yourself.
Then have conversations with others.
Then have more conversations with yourself, about your conversations with others.
Because art is a conversation with the world. You see, the world is already talking. There is a greater, complex, ever-evolving conversation already taking place. And it needs you to take your place in it. So start talking. Start speaking, writing, storytelling, singing, dancing, playing, composing, painting, drawing, designing, building, drafting, engineering, programming, experimenting, questioning, theorizing, philosophizing, synthesizing, creating, recreating, and creating some more.
The world needs more people in the conversation. Because we aren’t hearing enough of what people are actually thinking. We aren’t. And if we don’t know what the world, the whole world, the rest of the world, the real world, is actually thinking, how can we ever truly change it for the good, the real good? How can we ever truly grow and better our societies when we don’t understand each other? Hell, when we don’t understand ourselves?
Art is an activity. It is creative and active, not passive, not regurgitative. It it self-directed, not obedient. It doesn’t just follow and recreate or replicate. It leads. It cuts new paths. Art disturbs the status quo. It creates more out of what already is. It creates something else, something new out of the old, new life out of the existing. It remixes. Everything is just a remix, a mashup, a progression, of all that has come before, of all there is, of now.
What use is a voice when you’re always singing someone else’s songs and never your own? When you never tell us who you really are and what you really think and care about? There are painters, yes, and then there are artists who paint. You can recreate Van Gogh’s paintings down to the very last brushstroke, but who are you? You are not Van Gogh. You are yourself. You are a completely different human being in a different time and place, with a completely different set of life experiences and perspectives and ideas and abilities, and because of this, you have a point of view.
Because you are a point of view. You are one very particular, very human lens looking out into the world, experiencing life in your own particular way, from your own particular viewpoint. That viewpoint can never be replicated because only you, with your history, with your genetics, with your thoughts and emotions, with your dreams and drives and desires, can perceive and take up and use the space you exist in the way you do. Only you can manifest your ideas the way you can. Yes, your art will be subjective. Because you are the subject. You are the observer, observing the world, observing yourself.
Show us what you see. Because we need to see it. So we can learn to see beyond our own particular lens. Beyond our own particular viewpoint and perspective. Beyond ourselves. You are not just a member of the chorus. We are all one in this world together, but you are the lead of your own life, your own story. And your story, all your stories that make up the intricate patchwork of your life, they are worth telling. Your existence is a story worth telling. Tell it to us.
For we are all creative humans, gifted with the ability to envision and create. By that inherent quality, we are all artists. When you don’t use your Real Voice to speak, when you don’t express and manifest what you truly think and feel and desire — when you don’t make your own art — you are not being an artist. A craftsperson, perhaps, but not an artist. You are not making use of all your creative power: all your unmet potential, all your unrealized possibilities. You are not creating art. And if any part of you understands that being human means you are an artist, a creative being — no matter what medium or path you might take — then you owe it to yourself, and the world, to make your art. The world needs you. The world needs your art.
You may never be as renowned and celebrated as Van Gogh. Hell, even Van Gogh wasn’t recognized or renowned for his brilliance until late in his life, and all the more after he died. For most of his tragic existence he was misunderstood, seen as insane. Van Gogh died believing he was a failure. He was so ahead of his time. Maybe you will be, too. But he made his art. He still made his art.
So maybe you won’t make millions. Maybe you won’t be considered revolutionary. Maybe you’ll never make the bestseller lists. But at least you will have made your mark. At least you will have made your art. At least you will have lived your art. Lived out who you really were, used up all your creative powers, claimed and stood for your truths only the way you were able to. Isn’t that what we all want at the end of it all? To know that we lived our lives, truly and fully? To know that we genuinely did all we could and didn’t waste our existence, our short time, our short lives, on this earth?
You have to know that there’s more to you than just talent. There’s more to anyone than just mere talent. There’s your Perspective. There’s your Voice. There’s your Art. Even if your art is simply the life you are living. Even if your art is simply the life you are creating, actively creating, for yourself and everyone and everything that matters to you. For the kind of world that matters to you.
Be brave and live your art. Because we need you to. We need you to be brave. We need you, because in a world so prone to being trapped in its fears, we always need more courage, more heroes, more guts, more bravery. We need you, because in a world so prone to forgetting what truly matters in life, we need art to remind us of who we are, what we’re made of, what we’re made for. We need you, because when you are brave, you see — you show us that we can be brave, too.