The Artistic Importance of Vulnerability

Sometimes, creating and sharing an art piece can feel like this:

See how nobody engages or interacts with Michael? They all stare, or avert their eyes. They can’t stand to watch. Michael thinks what he’s doing is funny, clever, and will impart joy on his co-workers. So goes the life of most artists.

There is always risk in putting something out there for everyone to see.  Even excellent work has its detractors, see YouTube.  And for the artist, this pains us every day.

For those with exposure, or who create for a living, the critique seems to never end. People have opinions and, certainly, there is nothing wrong with an opinion. How could anyone or anything exceed its current state without someone’s input? Yes, we need opinions, in fact, many artists live for the opinions of their audience.

“What did you think of the piece?” “Did it affect you?” “Did you enjoy it?” “What does it remind you of?”

And certain times allow for some excellent and positive feedback for fantastic work.

But I’ll speak for myself here: 80% of the time, feedback is like the video above.

At the root of good art is being vulnerable. Revealing what you’re thinking, feeling, believing. Showing the world what you think is entertaining, scary, inspiring, funny, and worthy of their attention. Giving a different take, a different outlook on the universe. It’s like opening up your chest to reveal your heart and seeing if anyone else likes what they see. How could you connect with anyone through a medium without in some way asking the question “Do you feel this too?”

The answer can scare. Responses aren’t always a simple yes or no. Sometimes it’s “No, and you’re an idiot for thinking/feeling that.” or “How could you even ask that question? Are you even a Christian?” or “That’s filthy” or “That’s stupid.”

Those hurt for sure, but sometimes its the lack of response that hurts worse. No answers. No one cares. No one sees. I wrote about this earlier.  It can send people into spiraling depression and

Every act of creation carries this risk. People might hate you for it. People may not take notice. So is it even worth it?  Not only is it worth it, it’s fundamental and necessary.

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Think of your favorite lyrics from a song. Why do they resonate with you?

Think of your favorite movie. Why do you enjoy it so?

Think of your favorite novel. Why do you appreciate it?

If I attempt to answer those questions I come up with answers like: “I can relate to the pain in the song.” or “It causes me to think of life and its purpose.” or “I just think its funny!”

The bigger question: How could I even begin to answer this way if the artist didn’t first showcase vulnerability in their creativity?  How could you enjoy anything about anyone if a risk of rejection and failure didn’t accompany them? This applies to all of life, and not just art.

So the next time you comment on a blog or youtube, be respectful.  Understand what vulnerability it took to for the person to put out their ideas or showcase their craft. When you go to an art museum, be respectful, try to understand.

But here’s the bigger challenge: Actually comment on the stuff that you like.  Comment on the stuff that you didn’t like. Tell the person you enjoyed what they did and appreciated the risk they took in revealing a part of themselves.  Tell them you didn’t like the piece so much, but that you appreciated the risk they took in revealing a part of themselves.  This is the biggest help to artists and creatives like myself.   We don’t need approval, just appreciation.  Even if we’re Michael Scott.

 

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