Monday, June 18, 2012

The Art Police

Neil Gaiman gave a great speech at the University of the Arts back in May.  In it, he talks about something I struggle with all the time, despite my brave declaration (rambling?) in the last post.

He said:
"The first problem of any kind of even limited success is the unshakable conviction that you are getting away with something, and that any moment now they will discover you. It’s Imposter Syndrome, something my wife Amanda christened the Fraud Police.

In my case, I was convinced that there would be a knock on the door, and a man with a clipboard (I don’t know why he carried a clipboard, in my head, but he did) would be there, to tell me it was all over, and they had caught up with me, and now I would have to go and get a real job, one that didn’t consist of making things up and writing them down, and reading books I wanted to read. And then I would go away quietly and get the kind of job where you don’t have to make things up any more."

Oh yes.  I know the Fraud Police well.  I call them the Art Police.  Sometimes, I see them as Men In Black - the weird, anachronistic ones rather than Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith.  I would be there, standing in front of the easel when they drive up in their 1940's but brand new looking sedan.  They would get out of the car and in their strange, robotic voices, tell me they were on to me and I would have to put down the brush and stop Right This Minute  because I was perpetuating a major fraud on the world and if I didn't, then Dire Things may happen.  I may even have to ask people if they want fries with that.

I'd like to say that I always know how to deal with the Art Police.  I don't.  Sometimes, yes, I can turn the imagery on its head and invite the MIBs to sit down and have some tea.  I can question every Dire Thing they threaten me with and they stutter and stammer.  But just as often, I still get caught in the trap and their lies about the Dire Things, especially when those Dire Things seem to happen when things are starting to go well.

Yes, it happens sometimes.

That's when I just have to remember - and sooner or later, I do - the Art Police don't have any power over me, unless I give it to them.  That goes for crazymakers and busybodies too.

Art isn't some elitist thing.  There is no "You must be this educated/talented/crazy" bar to stand next to in order to get on the ride.  All that is required is that you show up and do the work.  The ride takes care of itself.     

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