Here’s something I truly believe: that the internet has been an absolute game-changer for artists. It offers an unprecedented opportunity for anybody to get there work out there, build a following and create a sustainable career for themselves doing what they love. I know it’s noisy and I know it takes time, but I am utterly convinced that it can be done.
I also know the theory of how to do it – it’s not rocket science. So many people worry about the minutiae and the details but the basic principles are always the same: You create work and put it out there. You interact with your peers and your audience in an honest and authentic way. You join in the conversation and you look to provide value wherever you can. You commit long term and build your profile and fan base one person at a time by making and shipping the best art you can. You show up every day with a genuine desire to engage and serve the people who are generous enough to give you their attention.
I also know that despite all the noise, most artists aren’t doing this. They either give up too soon, or they ask before they give. They crave interest and attention but don’t offer it to others. They pretend to be somebody they’re not and don’t provide value. They show up sporadically, they don’t create enough work or they do everything half-arsed and make excuses about why it doesn’t work for them.
I am utterly, utterly convinced that anybody with a semblance of quality in what they do can use the internet to achieve a million times more than anybody could have imagined 30 years ago.
I have known this stuff for a long time. And yet I haven’t been doing it myself. Despite my protestations that all I really want to do with my life is create this work, I’ve found a million reasons not to. I’ve procrastinated and lied to myself, I’ve rationalised and made excuses, I’ve held back from doing all the things that I absolutely believe are possible because….
…actually, I don’t really know why.
It’s probably something to do with fear, or insecurity, or perfectionism or some other nonsense, but even though I know and intellectually understand that these opportunities are open to anybody with an internet connection and the courage to follow through, there is a little voice inside me saying
“It’s possible for anybody – just not for you. It won’t work for you. You’re not good enough, you don’t deserve it. Don’t try, you’ll just make a fool of yourself…”.
And I’m having to fight it every day.
I’ve talked about living in the gap between where you are and where you want to be, but there’s another gap that I’m having to bridge first – the gap between fear and taking action. Never mind putting my music or creative writing out there, at the moment, I’m having to force myself just to write about these issues. It’s hard for me to be honest about my shortcomings and anxieties, it’s hard to admit that I’m vulnerable and afraid and I feel a bit sick in my stomach as I contemplate letting the world know I feel this way.
Nevertheless, I made a promise to myself that if I was finally going to commit properly to this work and start living a life on my own terms, then I was going to document the journey as honestly and as openly as I could. I want and need these posts and this site to keep me accountable, but more than that, I know that I’m far from alone in struggling with these things.
I look around me and I can tell that so many people are holding back and playing safe. I catch glimpses of unrealised ambition and unfulfilled dreams. I sense boredom and frustration and a bewildered sadness that life isn’t delivering what it once promised.
And I want to help. I want to encourage other people to shake off the shackles they’ve made for themselves and start being who they want to be and doing what they want to do. But I can’t, because I haven’t done it myself yet. People who tell people how to do what they’ve never done themselves are everywhere. I don’t want to be one of them so there’s no way I can pretend that I’m not figuring it out as I go and making it up as I go along.
What I can do though, is keep a record of the journey – and if it does work out, there’ll be a proverbial trail of breadcrumbs to follow. Because I also know that if I can do it, then anybody can.
Barry Dallman is a musician, writer and eternal student of the creative process. He is fascinated by the process of personal change and the challenges creative people face in committing to truly meaningful work. He's documenting his own creative struggles in the hopes of inspiring others to pursue what really matters to them.