My definition of success doesn’t mention money and acclaim, but what makes this such an exciting time for artists is that if we’re prepared to put our work out there and it’s good enough, we will be rewarded.
Our society might be in love with idea of the starving artist suffering rejection after rejection as he toils to hone his craft, but the reality is that when somebody commits consistently and honestly to making work over a lifetime, they tend to have at least some success – even if it’s a long time coming.
But most people do not persist. They give up when success doesn’t come quickly enough or they experience a few setbacks.
Here’s the thing: Thanks to the internet and the ability to create and release our work ourselves, there’s just no excuse for anybody to go unrecognised in their lifetime. If we do the work and the work is good people can and will find it. The gatekeepers who could previously have condemned artists to obscurity by preventing their work from being discovered are vanishing. A painter no longer needs a gallery to hang his work, an author does not need a publisher to print his books, a songwriter does not need a record company to get his music heard.
Gatekeepers grabbed control in the first place because artists did not want to focus on anything other than the work. Now they are disappearing because it’s so easy to showcase work that even artists can do it.
But here’s the catch: The work has to be good enough.
When the work is good enough, it succeeds.
There are very few great books that don’t get published, there are very few great symphonies that are never performed. When an artist isn’t successful it’s almost always because they aren’t good enough to break through and they throw in the towel before they learn to be good enough.
So here’s my challenge to myself and to you: Create the very best art you can and send it into the world. Do it again and again. Make it your life’s mission. If it is good enough people will notice. But even if they don’t, if it truly represents the best you were capable of then you will have succeeded.
And you’ll have earned it.
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.