The #1 Rule in Art: Don’t Lie to Yourself


You have probably heard that the best kind of art is honest; that it comes from a place which avoids cliche and communicates openly and genuinely.

But that is impossible to do if the artist isn’t being honest with themselves.

There are a million ways we can lie to ourselves in our everyday lives, and when we choose to pursue some artistic outlet those opportunities multiply. And it makes sense — if you’re a creative person then your lies will be even more creative. If you talk to some of the great artists in the world, they will likely be able to share incredibly imaginative lies that they have said into the mirror through the years.

We lie to ourselves for a lot of reasons — we want to get away with not working as hard as we should; we want to make ourselves feel better if we don’t get the reaction we were hoping for; we tell ourselves we aren’t actually jealous of someone who has succeeded; we try to figure out who or what is really at fault for the project not coming out how we wanted.

But to really succeed, you have to level with yourself.

Not everyone is going to like everything you do. There will always be people whose highlight reel looks better than your behind-the-scenes. In the end your project’s failure or success is your responsibility. And yes, you could always work harder.

These are just a few of the harsh truths you may have to face. And how you come to terms with them will be different for everyone. But you do have to face them or risk spending the rest of your life funneling all of your creativity into explaining why you don’t do more with your creativity.

Remember that you only have two choices as an artist — make excuses or make art.

Shane Mehling FOLLOW >

Shane Mehling is a freelance writer and editor who plays in noiserock bands.