It's 8:15. The show starts at 8:30 but doors were at 8:00. Besides us three performers, there are seven people in the room. Three of them work here. Two more are related to me. The soundman asks when we want to start. "8:30", I tell him. His eyes shift around the empty room (the big empty room), then back to me. "So, 15 minutes?" he asks with a tone that states the obvious. "Yeah" I answer, my confidence rapidly leaking out onto the just-swept floor.
This story is hard for me to tell. It gets at the sick heart of my weakness. I am telling you how I feel failure.
My greatest struggle as an artist is in having an audience.
This is what I fear. This is why I send out just enough social media updates before an event to not be creepy and annoying. I hope.
These twenty minutes kill me. The ten minutes before showtime and the ten minutes after, when I delay the start to allow the crowd to build by two or three more friends who told me they were coming. I feel all twenty of those minutes grinding slow, directly in my gut. Every time.
When I was in high school, I was in a band called Audience of One. I know. Not great. The idea was we were playing for God–a gift back to the giver of our creativity. Aside from being a cheesy name (and a name used by other bands), the idea didn't work. "One" has never been enough for me.
An audience is the part of the artistic process I have the least control over. I can invite, but that's about it. Even free tickets handed out with the sincerity of a puppy cannot guarantee attendance.
It's not just a musician problem. Any performer has faced those twenty minutes, but it carries over to visual art as well. Will people show up for my opening? Will anyone buy a piece? In writing, I'm left wondering if anyone will read this post or if a publisher will ever get back to me–did anyone even see that pitch I laboured over for two weeks?
Why is this my struggle? Why does this bother me so much?
Why do I need the affirmation of others so badly? Why do I want to be sure that you like me? I feel these questions tugging me towards growth this morning. There is value in acknowledging my struggle.
So, what is your struggle? In what dark corner of your artistic life does fear like to lurk?
Today, I'm asking you to show me your struggle. I just showed you mine.
Tell me, in the comments below, what you struggle with in your creative life? Maybe it's the time to create. Perhaps distractions or organisation? Maybe identity, or money, or ...
Be brave today and show us your struggle. You'll find you are not alone.
Image by Katie Montgomery via Unsplash