A question was put to me regarding my definition of success as an artist. It is a difficult thing to vocalize and thus a frequent question asked of creatives; with a universe of platitudes given in reply. So, since it is asked to the point of commonplace, and creatively dodged by many I decided to pen my answer.
Let’s begin with stating the one obvious preamble counter-definition of artistic success: It is NOT simply and uncontrollably relegated to the response to the artwork by others. Many works of mine have created immense personal satisfaction in me, though denied any accolade at all by another living soul, and vice versa in how some works of mine I regretted but were quite well-received. Sure, feedback is important, but it cannot be king, or even a member of the Royal Court.
OK, enough dodge, then what is success to me regarding an artwork of mine? I think it is best exemplified when I return to something I’ve done after the joy and work of creating it has lost its viral hold on me, and I still hear it, read it, see it, or feel it with a sense of joy at how it indeed captured that desire to satisfy portraying the inspiration that initially drove me to leave behind things of the world and enter into the world of creation. Often times I think creatives can be their own best and worst critics once the euphoria of creating has faded and they can take a work of their own back into themselves almost as a virgin with it again.
When first a melody or song strikes me, my mind can immediately fill in the missing holes in the orchestration not yet made, or the harmonies and sub-harmonies not yet found upon the fingers and keys, but they all are there in the mind’s eye. Then as the process of trying to find those words, or those notes, or that camera angle and image occurs the act of baking the item into reality takes on a secondary artform – namely the dance between pure inspiration and the facts of life when recording on a budget, or stealing time to craft a sentence properly before the cell phone rings, etc. In the music studio, the crafting of the arrangement takes on a life of its own and over time I can fall in love with the process a bit and forget to remain in love with what I started shooting for. And like any contest between passions, there may indeed be a loser and a winner.
But months or years later when next I encounter the artwork after having “let the baby be born” as a former friend used to say, if I engage with the artwork like a fresh observer no longer stricken with joy of how it was made, and I feel utterly satisfied that I struck a bullseye with it in speaking about the inspirational moment — THAT is a true success to me as an artist.
Meanwhile I can have all kinds of pride in things I’ve created, sometimes as fun, or beautiful in an unintended way where I spun off a bit, but it is ok with me, etc. However, an absolute bullseye in writing, or songwriting, or creating a visual is a rare and delightful treat to me, and those rarities embody success.