Last Friday, an artist named Amanda Palmer performed a show in Joburg at the Sheds @1Fox.

Confession #1: I had no idea who Amanda Palmer was until a few days ago.
Confession #2: I didn’t go to Amanda Palmer’s show.

When I heard Amanda Palmer was coming to Joburg and realized that this is a big deal, I googled Amanda and then downloaded her book, the Art of Asking. I started reading the book this weekend. I’m only on page 53 of 348 but I’m already blown away.

Here are a couple of amazing things that I’ve read in the book so far:

There’s no “correct path” to becoming a real artist. You might think you’ll gain legitimacy by going to art school, getting published, getting signed to a record label. But it’s all bullshit, and it’s all in your head. You’re an artist when you say you are. And you’re a good artist when you make somebody else experience or feel something deep or unexpected.

And:

In both the art and the business worlds, the difference between the amateurs and the professionals is simple:
The professionals know they’re winging it.
The amateurs pretend they’re not.

I’ve never met you, Amanda, and I unfortunately missed your show on Friday. But you say things I need to hear. You’ve prompted me to write this blog post.

While reading the above passages, it occurred to me that I’ve been very reluctant, actually afraid, to call myself an artist. It took me a long time to start calling myself a blogger, and even longer to call myself a photographer. But identifying as an artist is the hardest of all.

First, I’ve never thought of myself as creative or talented enough to be an artist. And second, I’ve been afraid to give myself permission to be an artist. Because I know being an artist is hard. And being an artist will force me to look at — and potentially expose — parts of myself that I haven’t been willing to look at or expose up until now.

I’m writing a book. I’ve been threatening to do this for years but I’m serious now – so serious that I’m putting it out here to keep myself accountable.

In order to succeed at writing this book, I need to get real. I need to call myself an artist and believe it. I need to BE an artist. I need to get comfortable with telling the truth. Not just part of the truth – not the truth that’s easy and convenient and makes for the best story. I need to get comfortable telling the whole truth: the beautiful, hideous, ridiculous, hilarious, painful truth about myself and my experiences. And I need to turn that truth into art.

Here’s a bit of truth-art to get the ball rolling: a paragraph that I wrote on September 1, 2012. I came across it yesterday while looking through old journal entries from a very difficult time in my life. I was surprised to find it as I have no recollection of writing it. I’m scared to share it.

I’m sitting in my bed with Smokey at 6:30 a.m., admiring the way the morning light hits the rock karee tree. It’s shining on the branches just so, creating a knife edge of glow. I can’t believe I’m sitting in South Africa right now, doing that. Jon‘s addiction, and perhaps my addiction, brought me here.

I confess to being an artist. A good artist. I’m going to devote myself to staying that way, and to becoming better.

There will be more confessions to come.

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