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suffering for your art

If you want to know how much you have to suffer for your art, ask yourself how much of yourself you’re willing to give.

Buried deep inside all of us, is a natural desire to make good things. Creativity is something everyone wants a little bit more of. When I say creativity, I mean the actual task of creating something, the actual act of taking a piece of you and turning it into something worth sharing with the world.

Why are some people capable of creating great masterpieces of inspiring work and others are only capable of imitations? It has to do with your willingness to be bold and take risks. A little bit of your soul has to in every project you do. It’s painful to break off a piece of your soul and put it into something or someone else; dangerous work indeed. But this is the only way to make something great. This is the only way to make real connection with people who are sharing your art.

Honesty has to be at the center of all good art. We’ll know if you’re faking it. We’ll know if you’re just trying to make a buck or ride some quick wave to fame. There’s no longevity in work that’s created this way. When you’re lying to us, we see what your true motives are. We’re pretty good at figuring out who’s speaking to us honestly and who’s not. You might be able to get away with it for awhile, but sooner or later even the best liars get caught.

So you have to be honest, and you have to be truthful, with the audience and with yourself. Being honest with yourself is a hard thing to do. It takes courage to look inside your heart and be ok with what you see.

This is why certain art speaks to us. There’s delight in seeing an artist pour out their heart for what they love. To see great art means to see courage. It means to see something that took great pains to make. There was struggle. There was a need to see and understand something more about how the world works.

Most people are afraid of this struggle. They’re afraid that if they look too closely at themselves that they might not like what they see. Or worse yet, they’re afraid others might not like what they see of them. This is why we see suffering for art. Because to make great art means to understand who you truly are, what you’re truly about, and say it with no shame.

Exhausting? Yes. But worth it.



about the author

Blake Smith is a Principal Software Engineer and leads the Infrastructure group at at Sprout Social.

Blake Smith

create. code. learn.