Impostor Syndrome, Confidence, Skill, Effort, and Greatness in Arts

I struggle with this a fair amount too. I think two big things that help with this are:

  1. My tastes in music and art maybe outside of the mainstream but they are not so esoteric that no one else shares them. If I am genuinely enjoying the art that I am producing, then there is an audience of others with similar taste who will probably appreciate it as well.

  2. All of my art (and your art!) is unique. No matter how influenced or even “derivative” it might be, it’s simply not possible that someone has made it exactly the same before! So if I can make unique art in the world, then… why wouldn’t I? I can’t think of a single good reason for there to be less art out in the world than there to be more art!


I have had this problem in the past (and to some degree currently) as well. What worked for me is to build a discipline to counterbalance the hyper-subjectivity of self-assessment. Regularly do things, it doesn’t really matter if you believe it’s great in the moment or not. Also regularly review what you’ve accomplished. What I’ve discovered is that quite often things I did that I thought were good - were not so good. Things which I thought were inconsequential were actually pretty good and should be refined. And the most important thing is over time (months & years) you see that you are making progress. Perhaps the hardest thing is that as you collect things you believe have some value is finding other people you trust to give you meaningful feedback. Places like this forum of course help :slight_smile:

Perhaps I’m suggesting, counter to your comment that art might somehow be different, is that the path to generating creative output that’s meaningful to you artistically might not be so different from your professional path.


Reposting from a Facebook copypasta.

In 2006 a high school English teacher asked students to write a famous author and ask for advice. Kurt Vonnegut was the only one to respond - and his response is magnificent: “Dear Xavier High School, and Ms. Lockwood, and Messrs Perin, McFeely, Batten, Maurer and Congiusta:

I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don’t make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana.

What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.

Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you’re Count Dracula.

Here’s an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don’t do it: Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don’t tell anybody what you’re doing. Don’t show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?

Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash recepticals. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.

God bless you all!
Kurt Vonnegut


twenty chars of amen