On being exhausted as an artist.

I had a chat with a friend recently, a very talented fellow artist, who said that he was exhausted at the thought of making new work. He has been putting new work out there and it’s not getting much of a response, positive or otherwise. He seemed a bit despondent and I told him: that’s completely normal. You’d be deluded if you felt any different. The majority of my work as an artist has been met with indifference or hatred at the time that I released it. People often didn’t care at best, or despised it at worst. When I published my first poems about football they were so hated that I didn’t write a poem about football for almost two years. And I mean, hated. As in – don’t-come-near-our-football-club-ever-again hated. Don’t bring your posh poetry around our working-class game. And that’s just the poetry I have put out. Whichever field I have worked in – fiction, music, journalism, whatever – there’s not a moment where I haven’t thought “my God, you are just some weird narcissistic alien putting out work no-one wants”. (And the benefit of working in several different areas is that you have multiple opportunities for often humiliating rejection.) One day when I have time and am completely free of those traumas I will list some of the examples.

My point, as I told him, is basically this – that it’s fine to be overwhelmed by this stuff at times. That you’ve always got people in your life who would love you utterly even if you never wrote another line. Go and spend time with them and hopefully after a while you will fall back in love with your art again, and the desire to create new work will become greater than the fear of that work being rejected. That’s basically what making art is for many people, I think – you’ve got to want it more than you are afraid, and it’s absolutely fine to acknowledge that you’re drained and maybe even scared. Hopefully, in time, you will get your energy back.

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