Issue #240 / June 2023
I don’t know who I am. My childhood with a father who was a clever multi-instrumentalist but in his heart was sad and angry at what had happened to him in his own childhood, led me to feel as if I had to be a protector of my mum and sister. Also it was a case of me becoming a chronic people pleaser and to have never developed properly as an adult. I feel like I have so much to offer as I’m very creative and I love to help people but I feel unable to move forward. I want to make so much music and art but I’m stuck still and I don’t know why. I guess I’m asking how I can find my own identity.
KELLIE, NORWICH, UK
You don’t need to know who you are to become an artist. Art moulds us into the shape it wants us to be and the thing that serves it best. As a songwriter, I have come to understand that the more I try to make art that somehow reflects what I perceive myself to be, or the identity I wish to project upon the world, the more my art resists. Art doesn’t like being told what to do. It doesn’t like me getting in the way. When I attempt to impose my will upon it, the work becomes diminished and art takes its better ideas elsewhere.
Art is a divine and mysterious force that runs through all of us. It is a thing of supreme spiritual potential that only comes into its true and full being if we abandon all those cherished ideas about who we think we are or are not. Art is entirely indifferent to our self-annihilating excuses, special case pleas and circumstantial grievances. We must cease to concern ourselves with our unique suffering – whether we are happy or sad, fortunate or unfortunate, good or bad – and give up our neurotic and debilitating journeys of self-discovery. Art of true value requires, like a jealous and possessive god, nothing less than our complete obedience. It insists that we retract our ego, our sense of self, the cosmetics of identity and let it do its thing. We are in service to art, not the other way around.
Kellie, if you want to create, sit down, lower your head in deference to the task ahead and get to work. But get out of art’s way! Art will, in time, show you who you are. One day you will be labouring away, lost in the flow, a glorious and unfathomable thing unfolding before your eyes, and art will suddenly and outrageously turn to you and, like a master pleased with his vassal, say, ‘Look. Look who you are. You are an artist.’