Inspiration vs. Insecurity (for the artists)

WORDS // KATEY LEE

This is one is for the artists.

Have you ever looked at someone else’s art and been so awestruck with inspiration that it kinda almost made you angry? That little voice in the back of your mind that says, “why didn’t I think of that?” or “I could never make something that good.” Well, my fellow artist, I’ve got some news for you. That’s not inspiration. That’s insecurity. It’s jealousy. It might even be bitterness or resentment. There is often a fine line between these, at least for us artists when it comes to our art, and I don’t think it’s something that we talk about very often.

I am an artist. My medium is photography. It just so happens that almost all of my closest friends are also artists whose mediums are photography. This is an absolutely wonderful gift most of the time, but I have discovered that it can also be a little bit dangerous.

My friends are incredibly talented. We will often send each other photos that we are proud of and we are sometimes met with the response, “I hate you” if it’s really good. This type of response perfectly illustrates that fine line between inspiration and devastation; that moment where you decide whether to be legitimately inspired by your friend’s art and proud of their accomplishment or to be self-centered, insecure, and disappointed with your own art. Easier said than done, of course.

Let’s break it down a bit and see if we can figure out how to be inspired instead of insecure.

Firstly, what even is inspiration? The dictionary definition is “stimulation to do creative work,” but I think we can agree that it’s something beyond that. To be inspired is pure. It is the culmination of motivation and creativity; it is a feeling of light airiness that fills your heart and soul and whispers that you that you can do anything. Whether this inspiration is carried out through a camera or a pen or a computer or clay – or maybe it’s never carried out – doesn’t matter; what matters is the positive forward push of the idea.

So then what is insecurity? In terms of our art, it is the constant comparison, doubt, uncertainty, or perhaps even fear that tells us we are not as good or talented or creative as someone else. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that this is not the way we should feel, but I’m also sure I don’t have to tell you that it is a universal and common feeling.

Where inspiration will push you forward, insecurity will hold you captive in its clutches.

I often feel helpless to my insecurity. I see my friends and complete strangers (thanks to Instagram) doing incredible projects and making beautiful art. I want to do that too! Ugh. Where’s my inspiration? Why am I so insecure? Well, let’s gain some perspective here.

First of all, why are you making art? Maybe you’re good at it, maybe you just enjoy it, maybe it’s literally your job, maybe you do it for likes or for validation. Not all of these are necessarily “bad” or “wrong,” but they shouldn’t be our main purpose as artists.

God is an artist. Just take a look at any mountain or flower or even mankind; his craftsmanship and creativity is undeniable (seriously, have you ever seen a platypus? Now THAT is creative). Why did God create? He created so that He would be glorified. And I believe that He created us to create for the same reason.

Colossians 3:17 spells it out pretty clearly for us:

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

           It would be silly to assume that this doesn’t include making art, right? I’m not saying that you should only paint crosses or hand-letter Bible verses or write worship songs or take photos for your church, but I am saying that our lives as well as our work should reflect our creator.

I think that Colossians 1:10 gives us the perfect question to ask to shift our perspective and banish insecurity:

“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

When our perspective shifts from trying to impress man/our friends/Instagram to truly surrendering our gifts and talents to God and letting Him work through us via those gifts and talents, we can fully embrace the inspiration of other’s art. Art is very intimate, and to compare ourselves (as with anything), we are robbing ourselves of the enjoyment of both the other’s art and our own art. And when we miss out on that, we miss out on the joy that comes through experiencing God in our art, through both the artistic process and the finished product. God loves when we create and He wants us to be inspired, not insecure.

So the next time you see some awesome artwork and you find yourself responding out of insecurity rather than with true inspiration, make the choice to respond differently. It probably won’t be easy and it probably won’t come naturally, but when you listen to the voice of truth that says you are created to create in your own unique way and that your value is not determined by how “good” your art is, you allow the cool things that other people create to be inspiring instead of devastating.


PHOTO // JESSICA BILLS