Art and the “Inner Voice”

Art and the “Inner Voice”

The musician Joni Mitchell once remarked during an interview, “The critics dismissed a lot of what I thought was my growth and praised a lot of what I thought common about my work. I disagreed with most of them. So I had to rely a lot on my own opinions, not to say that I wasn’t constantly asking them for advice and mulling it around, not dismissing it.”

Mitchell resonates with me. Learning to trust that “inner voice” is a crucial development for any artist.

What you produce–whether art, dancing, literature, music, and so forth–is inherently good because it is a gift from the collective unconscious, made tangible by your unique expression. It’s incumbent upon the artist to use his or her skills and experiences to then shape this embryonic goodness into something of enough quality to offer to the world, and then be willing to find peace in however the world accepts (or rejects) the offspring. Persevering through the work’s development and birth is the end goal and reward; any accolades or pans that recipients offer are either unexpected blessings or opportunities to learn.

Such confidence and trust in your own critique of your work comes with time, aided by the disciplined will to continue to create. Some identify that cultivated will as “grit,” and every artist needs grit lest they give up and spiral into mediocrity flavored with quiet (or loud!) desperation.

Either way, it’s all positive…because it’s an eternal part of you, and one more permanent contribution to humanity’s ever-unfolding, artistic narrative that grapples with the complexities, joys, and agonies of life.