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  • Writer's pictureJena


Photos: Retha Ferguson

I just finished an interview with musician, Karthik Manjeri about music, the spirit of creativity, and the value of independence and freedom in art. (You will be able to find it here when it's uploaded on Monday- in the meantime, enjoy my last interview with Chaya Lev.)

I don't want to spoil the interview, but I felt so inspired by our topic of conversation that I wanted to share a personal story. Since I was a child, I've been interested in different forms of expression- painting, writing, drawing, singing, etc. When I was a young kid, I was never overly concerned about whether I was following some sort of prescribed way of doing any of these things- I just enjoyed myself and I was proud of everything I did, whether it was belting out songs on stage with my class or the doodle I had drawn for my mother for Mother's Day. It wasn't until I got older that I learned to be self-conscious (and self-critical). Someone said I was a poor dancer- I became too self-conscious to dance in public. Someone else said I couldn't sing well- for years, I avoided singing. And this fear of failure slowly crept into my other forms of expression. For years, I would paint and draw and then feel almost embarrassed about sharing my work with others. What if they didn't like it? I was always prepared to dismiss all my work as just a hobby if I saw the least bit of disinterest or criticism in their eyes.

I wanted to call myself an artist, but was I an artist? Wasn't an artist a person with a certain background, a certain style? If anyone asked who I was, what I did- I was always sure to give my day job title. I was secure in the role of my day job- it was something I had been selected for, I got paid for it...whereas being an artist seemed like such a nebulous idea.

Some time ago, I drew multiple pictures and put the digital downloads up on Etsy. Of course, with everything else going on, I rapidly forgot about this until I received a message that someone had bought one of my downloads. Someone had looked at something I created and wanted to buy it. And I felt like an artist.

In our interview, we discuss how people measure what an artist is. And like most things, it is subjective. Some people see artists as people who have gained popular favor- the people who have been widely lauded for their work. Some people don't see the value in an artist unless they have been paid (and paid well) for their work. Why didn't I consider myself an artist until someone looked at my work and bought it? Why was I embarrassed to describe myself as a writer and always had my day job ready on my tongue in case the other person delved further?

Karthik advises all creative people to work on their craft on a daily basis and I've noticed that putting a lot more intention and authenticity in my work has made me feel more confident in who I am as a creative human being. Like I said, I won't spoil the podcast episode for you- be sure to check it out Monday- but I was so inspired by our conversation that I wanted to share a tidbit, at least.

And yes, if someone is asking, I am an artist and I'm a writer. Happy creating, everyone!


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