L’art pour l’art

Posted: March 31, 2011 in Words

This is an article I wrote last year to submit to an online magazine. It didn’t get accepted, but who needs ’em? That’s the beauty of having a blog- I can publish anything I want!

Creating is like stripping. Sharing an original work with someone is like letting them see you naked. You’re exposed and vulnerable, and you’re opening yourself up to the possibility of rejection and dismissal. When someone says, “This phrase is awkward,” or, “This isn’t very good,” or, “The colors are all wrong,” they might as well be saying, “You’re ugly and I don’t like what I’m looking at.”

I wrote the first paragraph of this article about half a dozen times. I kept typing, highlighting, and deleting because I’m afraid you won’t like what I write. I’m afraid it’s not any good and I’m nervous that if I create something that doesn’t please it makes me a failure.

L’art pour l’art is the philosophy that art is valuable simply because it exists. It has intrinsic value simply because it is something that has been created. It doesn’t have to be beautiful or popular or serve some moral or ethical purpose; the simple fact that it is there is enough to give it value. I wish I could more easily adhere to that philosophy and simply create “art for art’s sake.”

I wouldn’t call myself an “artist”, but I do like to think that I’m a pretty creative person. I enjoy music and writing and story telling. Sometimes I’ll sit with a guitar, a pen and a pad of paper, and scribble down words, sentences and chord progressions until an original song is born. Other times, like today, I’ll sit in front of a computer, pecking away, stringing together thoughts and ideas until something resembling an essay finds it way out of my bad grammar and second-guessing. But there’s always the fear, whether it’s a song or story or joke or sermon that it’s not going to be any good. I question myself through the whole process. “Does this sound stupid? Is that too cliché? This is just terrible. That was a waste of time. Did you mean to sound exactly like Matchbox 20? Give it up. You’re embarrassing yourself.”

And I think like anyone who creates original work, I’ve created a lot more than I’ve shared. I have songs, poems, stories and articles that have never seen the light of day because I’m scared of rejection. I admire artists in any field who fail publicly- the successful singer/songwriter who experiments with a new sound only to release a commercial failure. Or the girl-next-door sitcom starlet who stars in a dark, offbeat, independent film that nobody sees because she wanted to try her hand at something different. They put themselves out there and are slaughtered by critics, but they don’t regret it because they are proud to have created. I’m addicted to approval. If I put it out there, I want to feel like it’s good, and I want you to like it, and I want you to tell me you like it so I’ll have the courage to do it again.

I am trying to get to a point where I’m comfortable releasing something for public viewing that might be rejected. I think creating is a good habit to get into and a good discipline to possess, so at the risk of being laughed at, I must choose to create. I must write and sing and tell stories, knowing full well that sometimes I’ll kill, but sometimes I’ll be killed. It has to be a conscious decision on my part that whatever the outcome, I will exercise my creative muscles.

To anyone who creates: we must move past our fear of rejection, and release the ideas we have. There is something inside of us that is dying to get out, and if we refuse to set it free, it may just die altogether. Here’s to l’art pour l’art.

  1. Edwin Christian says:

    When I returned home from Vietnam I was in terrible shape mentally as well as physically. I was lost to God in my mind and withdrew from the world. Thanks to a strong family support system I gradually came back to the living. I wrote several little books following my trail back to normal over the next 17 years and put it all together in one book called “Focus” a centering of the self. I tried to have it published several times, but it was always returned with a note that the world was not ready for something like this.
    Over the years since several thousand copies were given out to missionaries and friends. It is amazing how the book has blessed the life’s of so many just being spread word of mouth. This just proves God will move you in the right direction at the right time. Rejection comes with a reason. Have a blessed day!

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