Have you ever heard of Beginner’s Luck?

Of course you have. Even before you even step into a casino or try your luck at a poker night, the “Beginner’s Luck” trope has been firmly planted in your mind through generations of influences, from movies through to friends that tell you about it being a “sure thing”.

And you know what? It’s a trope because it is true. Ask any repeat gambler, and they’ll tell you that beginner’s luck is a real thing. Because it was.

You can say exactly the same thing of finding a lost item “in the last place you’d think to look.” That’s true as well.

Just not for the reasons you’d expect.

No-one becomes hooked on gambling by losing on their first try. If you put $20 of your hard earned money on the table and lose it all, then you never experience that “high” of winning – so you don’t become addicted. On the contrary, those that end up gambling for a long time can all tell you about their “beginner’s luck” experience, when they won big on their very first try.

And once you find something, you stop looking – both physically and mentally. Your mind is not longer concocting locations where your item may have gone – because you have found it. In the last place you thought to look.

 

I’ve recently noticed a similar thing with art. It came from a Tweet from @weee_desu that said “I wish I wasn’t so self conscious about my drawings” and featured another of her sketches that showed a girl looking self conscious.

It made me realise that pretty much all artists are, at least at some point, emo. And, like the examples above, I think it needs to be looked at through a reverse lens: you don’t have to be emo to be an artist, but if you become an artist, then you’re going to be emo.

 

Let’s say you draw something, or play an instrument, or write a story. Initially, you might practice these things until you’re happy to show someone else. Now, if you’re lucky, you’ll get some praise. That will build your confidence, and you’ll start to show more people.

At some point though, you’re going to hit a sourpuss. Someone who doesn’t like what it is that you do. If this is early on, you might decide to throw it all in. Or maybe you’ll take the criticism and work to improve yourself.

Moving forward, if you’re lucky then you’ll start building and audience (one of these days I’ll get 500 followers… I swear…). You’ll have more people saying that your work is great. And that is just as addictive as any drug. Some people manage to turn this into a career, others support themselves however they can just so they can continue to practice their art.

For those that hang in enough, they’ll have a hit. The definition might vary depending on the person. Maybe it’s 10 retweets of their drawing. Maybe it’s a “good job” from a mentor. Maybe it’s a game that was downloaded about a million times.

Off the back of that, nothing can compare. It might be that this becomes your magnum opus – but how can you know? Once you’ve had that taste of success, you’re going to try and emulate it. And sometimes, you will. Some people manage to have a few hits, one after another. Others don’t. But since most of what you produce won’t be your best work, you’re going to know that you’re not going to get that high again. And sometimes you release something that you know isn’t as good as you can do, but you need to re-up on that praise. Either that, or you lock yourself away, endlessly chasing perfection.

So, I think that producing art is a process whereby those that hang in long enough are bound to be emo more often than they are elated. In that vein, I can see things like Patreon being a good thing. Even if you’re only “ok” (as in, still producing stuff that is good enough that people don’t unsubscribe), you’re still getting some kind of “baseline” praise from your fanbase.

Those that can’t handle the emo times will drop out. So anyone who is consistently producing has already:

  1. Had early success/praise
  2.  had at least one “hit” (by their own definition)
  3. is chasing that next “high”
  4. has more “ok” works than “hits”
  5. goes through the above cycle until they give up and quit, or drinks themselves back into creating something else.

 

At least, this is what I’m going to tell myself next time I drink myself into a stupor!

(And no, for once I wasn’t drunk whilst blogging…!)

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2 thoughts on “Why are artists so emo?

  1. Definitely an article I can relate to, though my ‘big hit’ has been nowhere near as successful as KS. Guess I have to stick with being emo but stick just as hard at persevering, even if I feel unable to create sometimes. You just have to push through it, I guess!

    1. I think part of the point is that it doesn’t matter just how popular one of your works gets, the most popular will always be the standard that you hold your other works to… and then each “success” after that will feel great, but anything that doesn’t live up to the same standard will feel like a kick in the guts (and there’s many more of them!)

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