I put a lot of pressure on myself. I am my own worst critic. I cut myself less slack than anyone else possibly could. If I don’t, I might create something that sucks. I might make myself vulnerable to legitimate criticism. I could cut off the bad stuff at the source and let only the most brilliant, genius, groundbreaking material get out into the public. That would be such a relief. Then I’d know everything I create will be wonderful, because I’ve already given myself so much shit and demanded I be great from the start.
If only it worked that way.
If only putting an undeserved and unhealthy amount of pressure on myself meant that everything I created would be loved by all. I like having high standards, but that’s a ridiculous thing to demand of myself. I am not a genius. And even the most ingenious artists in history summoned the ire of the critics. Actually, some of the best artists of all time have pissed off the most people.
Pandering To The Masses
Art is not supposed to be loved by everyone. It should exist in every way possible so that everyone finds something to connect with, but that’s achieved through the work of many different artists. It is not my job to connect with everyone. If it was, I’d be a shitty employee.
I do not need to be brilliant. I don’t even need to be good. I just need to be honest. I need to be authentic. And I need to be myself. That’s the only possible way for me to be satisfied. If I do that right, someone will notice. Maybe not a lot of people, but someone. That’s enough.
One time I saw a discussion on a video game forum about which band was better: Shaimus or Led Zeppelin. I’m not joking. That actually happened. While I genuinely appreciated the folks fighting for my band, I couldn’t help but laugh and think of the lopsidedness of the lists of accomplishments for each group (and the fact that comparing a nearly unknown indie act to one of the most influential rock bands in history is like taking on an army with a cap gun). And although musical integrity and ability is not measured by commercial success, at this point in time the average listener would have no choice but to consider Led Zeppelin’s music a little more influential than my own.
But that’s OK. Because my fulfillment does not depend on my becoming a rock and roll legend. No success in my life requires me to be a revolutionary. I like making cartoons out of dumb puns. Maybe it’s not as biting a satire as South Park, but some people will probably enjoy it anyway. That makes me happy.
Aspiring For Greatness
It’s not that I’ll never try to push the boundaries and create something influential or try to make something that lives on forever in infamy—I will likely try to do that many times in my life. I still aspire for greatness. It’s just that if I put everything that I am into my art and it becomes none of those things, I need to be perfectly OK with that. There’s a Calvin and Hobbes strip where Calvin tells Hobbes he is a “misunderstood genius.” When Hobbes asks him what’s misunderstood about him, Calvin replies: “Nobody thinks I’m a genius.”
The moment I start thinking I’m a genius artist, someone should probably pull me back down to the Earth and tell me to get over myself.
If someone else tells me I’m brilliant, though, I sure as hell won’t argue with them.