You're better than your work
What we learnt about faith, creativity and ambition from our recent roundtable.
Vision is inherently personal. Whether through photography, music or design, those blessed with creativity are constantly asked to express their vision of the world. Over time, it’s only natural for creatives to deeply identify with their work and feel their work reflects who they are as people. For creatives, the reflection can become a temptation to conflate identity and craft.
Using our work as a source for our identity
Wrapping identity in craft can be unhelpful. When we are what we make, all criticism becomes personal. Our artistic value gets tied to the success of select projects and creative confidence shifts with public opinion. Rather than focusing on improving craft as a creative practitioner, there can be an emphasis on creating work that will be well received. We may focus on creative decisions that reinforce our sense of self or our audience's expectations. Our identity and reputation are always on the line, so there’s never room for mistakes or experimentation.
When we glean our identity from the success of our work we give undue value to a temporal aspect of life.
The truth (The funnel)
Our craft can never reflect all of us. It’s impossible to present all the nuances that make your artistic vision original in any collection of work. Your vision will always be broader than your reach. And that's a good thing. Our full spectrum of beliefs and ideals can’t be fully encompassed in our craft because so much of what makes you unique has nothing to do with what we do. So much of human value is completely separate from talents and skills, let alone just artistic ability. Valuing ourselves through our work doesn’t present ourselves in a holistic light. And ultimately the success of our work is a poor indicator of anything but current craft.
Identity > Purpose > Craft
We have innate value regardless of what we do. Our value comes from your identity as a Human, nothing more nothing less. There’s a purpose to our lives that no one artform can fully express and how successfully we fulfill our purpose has no interaction with our worth as humans. It’s an understanding of our innate value that frees us to have a holistic perspective of purpose and broaden our expectations of how we can achieve it. We become free to explore more than a life of excellence in craft but proficiency in purpose.
Your gift isn’t about you
Our work isn’t all about us. Our craft is just one aspect of our purpose as a whole and it needs to be able to grow past building our ego. When we recognise the part craft has to play we get to fully service the message of our work without the limitations of egoism getting in the way. Art transforms whoever consumes it and we may never even see the full impact of our work. We can fully explore that experience when we’re not worried about its reception. Failure and criticism become part of the process of delivering that message better.
Call to action
We can all take steps to separate craft and identity. Separating both means constantly reminding ourselves of the truth and building truth into our lives. We have to reevaluate how we talk about ourselves and our work. Reassess how we approach our creative process. Reexamine how we react when success isn’t as forthcoming. We all deserve a more holistic vision of ourselves and both craft and comfort improve when work is just work.